OMAHA, Neb. — The back to school process for kids and teachers is typically an exciting time. Teachers usually wait for students with open arms in their classrooms, but this year teachers will be waiting with face masks and new rules. This creates stress for the students and teachers as they navigate uncharted territory.
"It's going to be so hard on the teachers. I think we [ought to] pray for every teacher in the school districts," former private school teacher and principal Barbara Gard said.
As a former educator of over 50 years, Gard will tell you that teachers love what they do.
"Most teachers, they love their students. That's why they're there, they love to teach," she said.
But despite that love, when you add a worldwide pandemic to the job things get stressful. That's why CHI Health hosted a virtual teacher mental health assembly earlier this week, where over 400 teachers all across the metro listened in for advice.
DIGITAL EXTRA: Tim Hron, licensed child mental health therapist for CHI Health, on how to support family members who teach
"They can't be the best teacher...unless they're taking care of themselves and I think that's crucial for everybody right now," one expert on the panel said over Zoom to all the listeners.
Infectious disease and mental health experts answered teachers' questions on proper hygiene to prevent spread after coming home from work.
"After you're home, when you're normally changing your clothes for the day you put them right in the laundry, you clean your mask as well in the laundry, you wash your hands," CHI infectious diseases expert Dr. David Quimby said.
The experts also encourage open communication.
"Maybe even have a colleague, a fellow teacher, a check in buddy. Hey, I'm struggling with this, not just professionally but personally," licensed child mental health therapist Tim Hron said.
Open communication is what principal of Westbrook Elementary, Tyler Hottovy, is jumping on weeks before school starts.
"You want to keep all your teachers informed, you want to give them as much information as possible, but things are changing by the hour," he said.
Hottovy says he understands that the stress will fall on teachers, staff and students.
DIGITAL EXTRA: Barbara Gard, former private school teacher and principal, on how tough of a time this is.
"If you're a kindergartner and this is your first experience coming to school, what an intimidating situation. Everyone's wearing masks, you can't see when your teacher's smiling at you or when any adult in the building is smiling at you," he said.
As the school preps for reopening, the staff hope that students and parents are also prepping - practicing good hand hygiene and wearing masks.
Experts remind that it's normal to feel some sort of stress during these times. The most important thing is taking care of one another and staying safe.