Facing a return to the classroom, some Virginia teachers choose to resign

Facing a return to the classroom, some Virginia teachers choose to resign
Teachers gathered outside a Roanoke County School Board meeting last month to call for an all-virtual start to school. [FILE] (Source: WDBJ)

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - For Amy Herzel, nothing about this came easily. “It was very sad,” she said. “It was a hard decision.”

A few weeks ago, the Roanoke County English-as-a-Second-Language teacher decided she just couldn’t return to the classroom. There were her kids to think about. There was her husband, often away for work. It was, at he end of the day, a risk Herzel wasn’t ready to take.

“At some point there will be exposure to my family, right? And, it’s just a matter of how can I limit that as much as possible,” she said.

Herzel decided then and there to resign.

She’s not alone. While there’s no official statewide count on resignations, districts across our region have seen teachers step down rather than return to the classroom. In Roanoke County, two other teachers resigned, along with 11 staff members. In Montgomery County, eight staffers and teachers stepped down; in Lynchburg, only one.

“We’ve been seeing demonstrations of fear,” said Dr. James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association which represents teachers statewide.

Fedderman lays the blame for the resignations on many districts deciding to come back for in-person schooling.

“We don’t want anybody going to sleep at night thinking about the shoulda-coulda-wouldas,” he said.

But Amy Herzel says a digital start in Roanoke County wouldn’t have changed her mind.

“I look at this in terms of a long-term thing,” she said of the pandemic. “This is not like a couple of months, and then things will go back to normal.”

Even when things do go back to normal, Herzel says she likely won’t return to teaching. She’s now volunteering as a counselor with the Gide Foundation.

“Basically I’m just helping people do breathing exercises, some visualizations, and drawing and being creative,” Herzel said, pointing out the work can be done through Zoom or Facebook.

“There are just so many communities in need,” she said. “And figuring out where your resources are best applied is what we have to do.”

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