Teacher vaccines: A costly opportunity

Increase in vaccinations and absences among West staff


Tiara Soppe

Myriam Stangherlin poses with her “I got my COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker. Originally from Italy, Stangherlin was ecstatic to receive the Moderna vaccine. “Despite my experience, I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to get vaccinated,” Stangherlin said.

Tiara Soppe, Reporter

If given the opportunity to take the COVID-19 vaccine, would you? This year has been nothing short of challenging from virtual to hybrid to 100% back in school due to the pandemic. As a community we have struggled and adapted to new ways of learning and teaching, therefore attendance was crucial. Once the Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency order for the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine, everyone was hopeful things would go back to normal until it shed light onto new problems. Once the vaccine became available, hundreds of teachers received their initial shot which led to an increase in teacher absences due to the side effects. West High School struggled to find substitutes to accommodate for teachers who had fallen ill due to the vaccine.

Lisa Rostenbach, principal’s secretary, said, “Overall, the Davenport Community School District has a shortage in teachers, which makes it extremely difficult to replace teachers. Sometimes, we have teachers sacrificing their prep time to substitute for other teachers.” 

Every morning Rostenbach has to rush to figure out who can substitute while working around their schedule. Recently, an unusually high amount, ten teachers, called off in one day in relation to their vaccine side effects. Five of those included were paras which can’t always be replaced. 

Rostenbach said, “After the second dose was distributed, teacher absences increased yet again. Teachers would call off a maximum of three days after their second dose.” 

English as a Secondary Language teacher, Myriam Stangherlin was given the opportunity to receive the vaccine, but she didn’t know what exactly she was getting into. Stangherlin received her second dose of Moderna on March 2nd at 6:00pm at the Administration Service Center. She felt excessive pain and soreness in her arm almost instantly. Her experience with the side effects were severe from chills, to fever, nausea, and headaches. Stangherlin called in three days in a row after receiving her second dose due to the severity.

“I called in the following Wednesday after I woke up with a 101.8 fever. I was unprepared and didn’t realize how severe the side effects would be. A substitute teacher filled in for the day but if I had been more prepared my ESL students would’ve been better off. I don’t want to say the day was wasted but when you’re sick you don’t have the ability nor the time to think of a lesson plan.”

Stangherlin’s overwhelming schedule with four blocks and no prep made it extremely difficult to even attempt to prepare for a guest teacher that very morning. 

Stangherlin stated, “Had I had prep the day of the vaccine, things would not have been so difficult the next day when I had side effects.  Not having a prep and teaching four blocks puts me in a position of having to get ready for school in the morning.  I do want to emphasize teamwork, however. My co-worker Jessica Romaniello and I always help each other when we’re absent or are having difficulties, and in this case Ms. Romaniello’s role was critical in assisting my sub and helping the newcomer students.”

The vaccine’s side effects prevented Stangherlin’s ability to complete daily tasks. The following Thursday, Stangherlin woke with a temperature of 104 degrees and stayed home another day. By Friday she was recovering from her fever. That Friday, she called in again because she still felt weak and sickly but in order to miss another day, a doctor’s note was needed. Rather than going through the hassle, Stangherlin decided to come to work. 

Stangherlin said, “It was a mistake to come in because the side effects lingered for a week, but I was finally able to get some work done. I don’t want to scare anyone but at least it was an amazing opportunity.”

Studies show that the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective but knowing the risks and difficulties of the vaccine, would you still take it? West High School struggles with finding substitutes due teacher absences increasing because of the vaccine’s side effects. Although, now that teachers are vaccinated, hopefully there will be less absences and risk of COVID-19 exposure.