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JCISD teachers get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

January 15, 2021

Jackson, Mich. -- For special education teacher Holly Pollice, getting the COVID-19 vaccine gives her hope that all of her students and staff can safely be together in person again. She was among the hundreds of Jackson County Intermediate School District staff who were given the opportunity to get the vaccine this week.  

“I am feeling blessed to be able to be part of the essential workforce group as an educator to be given the opportunity to receive the COVID vaccine,” said Pollice, who teaches Severely Multiply Impaired (SXI) students at the Lyle Torrant Center. “In getting the vaccine, I feel I am doing my part in keeping other people safe.”

Teachers, child care workers and other educators are part of the new wave of Michigan residents eligible to receive the vaccine starting January 11. Henry Ford Allegiance Health began administering the vaccine to Jackson County educators that day. 

Torrant Center Principal Amy Rogers says she is grateful the JCISD and Henry Ford Allegiance Health worked together to execute the COVID-19 vaccination rollout for educators so swiftly. “I received my first dose of COVID vaccination from my mother, Barb Mierzwa, who has been a nurse for 34 years with the hospital in Jackson. I am incredibly thankful for our healthcare heroes and science for helping us take a step towards healing and wellness,” said Principal Rogers.

Jackson Area Career Center Principal Mark Pogliano echoed Principal Rogers’ appreciation for how well Henry Ford Allegiance Health orchestrated the vaccine process. “Getting the vaccination shots has been a great morale boost for our staff,” said Dr. Pogliano. “It has helped us to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that we will eventually be back to normal working conditions.”

For Brett Halsey, an instructional assistant at the Career Center, he felt it was important to get the vaccine to be able to return to a normal in-person learning environment. “I missed seeing my kids in the Law Enforcement and Firefighting programs, as well as my fellow educators.” His colleague, Dental instructor Karen Bollheimer, also hopes this signals a return to face-to-face instruction. “We all know the importance of building a relationship with our students. Wearing a mask, having plexiglass dividers between students, wearing extra face shields when we can't social distance, has prevented the normal bond to develop that enables us to reach the students effectively,” said Bollheimer. “As a dental CTE teacher, I had the additional challenge of figuring out how to provide our "hands-on" skill training without actually working in the dental clinic. ” 

Teaching special education hasn’t been easy during the pandemic either. For Kit Young teacher Mark Schmidt, this last year has forced him and his colleagues to adapt to a new way of teaching. “I have spent many, many hours with students going over how to check the classroom page, check emails, and still try to meet the IEP goals,” says Schmidt. “My fellow teachers and I have made countless videos showing us doing different daily living and community skills, which then have to be edited and uploaded in a manner that is easy for our students to access. I'm glad I am able to get the vaccine and hoping this will help our school get back to normal as fast as possible.”

Every staff member at the JCISD was given the opportunity to get the vaccine. It’s believed more than 70% received their shot this week, something staff is grateful for. “I’m so thankful that we have the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we can do our part to protect our families, friends, students and loved ones,” said Career Center Cosmetology instructor Ronda Applegate. “I can't wait for our lives to return to normal so I can hug my students.” Pollice agrees. “The distribution of the vaccines has given us a small victory over this virus. COVID has taught us all one thing and that is together is a good thing to be.”

COVID vaccine teachers

Kaci Babineau
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