A Case Of The India COVID Variant Discovered In San Diego
Speaker 1: 00:01 A case of the India COVID variant is discovered in San Diego Speaker 2: 00:05 As the public. We're a little in the dark on exactly how this one case may have contacted others. Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Hyman. This is KPBS midday edition A glimpse into what makes vaccine skeptics change their minds. Speaker 2: 00:28 They were motivated by things that they want to be able to do, like travel or go to sporting events and safely seeing friends and family Speaker 1: 00:37 San Diego resettlement agencies get ready to accept new refugees and a conversation about education through the pandemic with one of San Diego's teachers of the year that's ahead on midday edition. Speaker 1: 01:01 The first case of the COVID virus variant that has led to a major outbreak in India has been detected in San Diego, San Diego public health director. Dr. Wilma Wooten says a case of the B one six one seven variant was found in a woman who returned to San Diego from India in March because of the lag time between a positive test and viral sequencing. The variant was not detected until last week. Dr. Wooten also told members of the San Diego County board of supervisors that despite continued lower rates of COVID transmission in San Diego and across California, the state ordered COVID-19 emergency status is expected to continue through the end of the year. And joining me is San Diego union Tribune health reporter, Paul Sisson, and Paul, welcome back. Speaker 2: 01:50 Thanks for having me. Speaker 1: 01:51 Did we learn any of the details about how the India variant may have spread in San Diego? Speaker 2: 01:58 We are a little in the dark on that. We know that this, uh, this person, uh, traveled to India, as you said, and, and returned. Uh, I asked yesterday for more information on who she was in contact with after she returned and, and specifically how many people she was in contact with, as we've learned the kind of the critical information the County said that, you know, we did our normal contact tracing process with this person, but we are not disclosing how many close contacts she had silver a little bit as the public were a little in the dark on exactly how this one case may have contacted others, Speaker 1: 02:36 Did the woman who had the variant display symptoms. Speaker 2: 02:40 We know that, uh, she was hospitalized. Uh, we don't know for how long we don't know if she's still hospitalized. So, you know, this is, this is a possibility that this person could have initially, uh, come up after being tested for another reason, as you said, it takes a few weeks for them to do the viral sequencing, uh, genetic analysis. It's necessary to tell whether a one variant or another is involved. Speaker 1: 03:06 Do doctors think this variant is more easily spread or more dangerous? Speaker 2: 03:12 They suspect that it may be more easily spread. Uh, they suspect that it also may have some resistance to the antibodies that are generated by the various vaccines that are, uh, now in use all over the world. Uh, for one I could tell the studies are still too small and, uh, not, not quite real world enough to really say anything conclusive. Uh, but they have noted that several of the, uh, subtypes of this variant do carry mutations that give those kinds of concerns and other variants like, like the one from South Africa and the one from Brazil Speaker 1: 03:50 Now, Dr. Wooten also talked about other COVID variants being found in San Diego. Can you give us an overview of what she had to say about that? Speaker 2: 03:59 Yeah, that's right. Uh, you know, the, the [inaudible] variant for spotted in the UK, uh, remains by far the most prevalent in San Diego and across the nation. Uh, the CDC estimates that about 60% of, uh, the virus that's currently circulating is one, one seven. We we've also, uh, you know, we've got two different California variants that have, uh, that have mutated and spread in California. I think that's the second, most prevalent type that's out there right now. Uh, and then, uh, Dr. Root mentioned yesterday that last week, they also picked up a case of what's been known as the New York variant, uh, it's, uh, most prevalent in New York and it is kind of gradually spread. Um, and then, uh, there's a P one variant out of Brazil. I think she said we're up to about 70 cases. Uh, so, so that variant has grown somewhat, uh, but still is, uh, dwarfed by one, one seven. Speaker 1: 04:59 And you said that the current COVID vaccines have been found pretty much effective against these variants, is that right? Speaker 2: 05:05 That's right. Um, the New York variant, it seems like there's some, some pretty good, uh, information to indicate that it is well covered by the vaccines that are in use in America. And one, one seven appears also to be well covered. You know, it's a little less clear, uh, with, uh, with 16, 17 out of India. Uh, again, that's a, there hasn't been quite as much research done yet, so, so it's a little foggy there, but they suspect that, that they get some reaction to the vaccine. Speaker 1: 05:35 So despite the threat posed by the variants are COVID cases still going down in San Diego. Speaker 2: 05:41 Um, you know, we, we see a kind of a steady state, I'd say, you know, we've seen some, some tip down around the 150, 130 Ks per day, uh, rate coming in and then a, a little, a little uptick, uh, up tour closer to 200 cases per day. But I think we've been under 200 cases per day for quite a while now. Uh, you know, it's sure a heck of a lot better than it was when we were consistently over a thousand cases per day. And there, there was a period, uh, uh, in late December and early January, uh, where we were over 3000 cases per day. Speaker 1: 06:19 And is that this the same situation across the state? Are we seeing the numbers consistently kind of fall? Speaker 2: 06:27 Yeah, we really are a, in most places, uh, we we've seen this a relatively steep fall off after, after the big surge in January, you know, there's still virus out there and cases are coming in every day. People are getting hospitalized every day, uh, the smaller number, but still a number of people are dying every day. It's not showing any signs of, of jumping up, like, like they thought it might. Speaker 1: 06:50 Now, Dr. Wooten said that she's been informed by the state that even though California's COVID statistics continue to improve the COVID-19 emergency status will probably last through the year. What does that mean? Speaker 2: 07:05 Yeah, that's a good point, right? I mean, uh, the, the governor said a few weeks back that he intends, if, if hospitalization rates, uh, continue to head down or remain steady, he intends to remove the current, uh, tiered blueprint, blueprint reopening system, uh, by June 15th. And that would allow businesses to widely reopen organizations to wildly reopen pretty much at full capacity. You know, that's really what I think most of the public cares about is being able to get back to a more, um, regular pattern of living, you know, but all of this, all of these mandates that the governor have has created, uh, throughout the pandemic have been enabled by the fact that he's called an emergency declaration. And, um, you know, I've looked at the state code and it does allow him to keep that emergency status going until he feels like it's a time to cancel it. It appears that some of this has to do with federal funding that flows to places that are technically in emergencies. Uh, and Dr. Wooten kind of hinted at that yesterday in terms of, uh, the emergency being necessary. I think she said to, to, uh, support response efforts, including vaccination activity. Okay. Speaker 1: 08:27 Then I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune health reporter, Paul Sisson, Paul, thank you very much. Speaker 2: 08:33 Thanks for having me. Speaker 1: 08:39 Public health experts are keeping a close eye on data that shows the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations slowing down the Washington post reports that half of all eligible adults have yet to receive a first shot. And yet a growing group of vaccine skeptics appear to be changing their minds Speaker 3: 08:56 And getting the shot. Dr. Ryan [inaudible] is the chief executive officer of the de Beaumont foundation. He spoke with California report host Lily Jamali. Here's that interview. Speaker 4: 09:08 You have been conducting focus groups on this issue. And from what you can tell, why are some of these one-time skeptics coming round to the idea of getting the COVID-19 vaccine? Speaker 5: 09:18 Well, I think they're starting to see other people taking it. And I think that's what was really important to so many, you know, their decision to get vaccinated came after just their perceived risk of getting COVID-19 outweigh their concerns about the safety of the vaccines. And they were motivated by things that they want to be able to do, like travel or go to sporting events and safely seeing friends and family, uh, the most influential source of information about COVID 19 vaccines was a doctor, a pharmacist or other medical professional, who they knew and trusted. Uh, and I think they just became more comfortable after seeing the people that they know get vaccinated without any major complications Speaker 4: 10:05 Course health officials at the federal state and local level are pretty uniformly working to try to convince people about the safety of the vaccine and about why it's so important to get it. What can they be saying and doing to help convince those who are still skeptical Speaker 5: 10:23 Safety and speed are concerns that, that a lot of folks have. And we have to keep telling people that no corners were cut bureaucracy and red tape are cut to expediate the cell safe development of these vaccines. And the technology behind the vaccines was built on decades of trusted medical research. So why, while it seems that these have come to market very quickly, safety wasn't compromised. We need to make sure that people are always feeling that they have the freedom to make an informed personal decision. And lastly, but probably most important we need to be non-judgemental. We don't need debate. We need dialogue and discussion. And many conservatives are tired of being shamed and blamed, and just want to have candid, open conversations about the vaccines that are nonjudgmental. They want to hear the science and the facts, and then they just want to make their own informed decision. Speaker 4: 11:20 Yeah, you can't really have a dialogue with someone if they feel that you are judging them. Um, I think the reality is that we are not going to convince everyone to get vaccinated, but based on the trends that you are seeing, are you confident that we can at least change the minds of some of the people who are squarely on the fence right now, Speaker 5: 11:39 Between March and April, we saw a 20% increase in likelihood of vaccination among Republicans. And so that gives me hope, but I think the reality lies somewhere in the middle. I think people are still making a decision about whether they want to get the vaccine and we need to keep consistent, truthful messaging about the vaccine and what it means to get vaccinated. But I think if you look at India, we should take that as a warning and we should not be so arrogant to believe that that could not happen here in the U S and that right now there's a race between getting vaccinated or finding more variants. All right. Dr. Speaker 3: 12:19 Brian Castro, Belmont foundation. Speaker 5: 12:21 Thank you. Thanks Lily. Speaker 6: 12:36 [inaudible] Speaker 3: 12:40 You are listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. President Biden announced his administration would raise the nation's refugee cap to 62,500 individuals. The decision comes after the president faced sharp criticism for failing to lift the previous cap set by the Trump administration of only 15,000 a restriction Biden. Now characterizes as historically low. The change in course means resettlement organizations will need to pull resources together to help people create a life here in the us. Joining me to discuss efforts to help refugees resettle locally is Michael Hopkins, CEO of Jewish family services. Michael, welcome. Speaker 6: 13:22 Thank you. It's good to be here. So Speaker 3: 13:24 First, what's your reaction to Biden lifting the refugee case? Speaker 6: 13:27 Yeah, well, obviously we applaud the Biden Harris decision to lift the cap. Um, frankly, we were surprised, um, that he wanted to continue it at 15,000. Uh, and so I'm happy that, um, he changed his position, um, but the new position is actually much more aligned with, um, what he campaigned on. So it took a while to get there. And, uh, but we're there. Speaker 3: 13:50 How does your organization help refugees start their lives here in the U S Speaker 6: 13:54 So I'm not going to tell the whole story, but I, it is important to note that we've been doing this work for over a hundred years. Matter of fact, Jewish family service here was founded by a group of women who went down to the border, uh, because the 1918 Jews were stuck at the border. Um, so helping the stranger welcoming the stranger, working with refugees has been part of our organization's history for, for more than a century. Um, but over the last, probably 40 plus years, we've been very involved working with, um, highest a Hebrew immigrant aid society, our national partner in helping refugees settle here in San Diego. So we're one of four agencies that do that work locally. Um, and we, everything from, you know, uh, refugees different from asylum seekers, refugees, um, almost always arrive via plane. Um, they come in, you know, through the state department, um, they're vetted overseas. And then literally from the moment that they arrive at the airport, uh, we help them settle and help them on their path to citizenship. Oh, what portion Speaker 3: 14:52 Of this higher refugee cap do you think will end up in the larger San Diego area? Speaker 6: 14:57 So that is a really good question. I don't think anyone really knows, you know, uh, we have the numbers from the past year. Um, so for example, um, uh, you know, like even in, uh, like in 2016, um, San Diego had about 4,000, um, uh, refugees come to San Diego, uh, this past, this current year, we're at 341. I mean, it's really, uh, so much smaller than what it's been. Um, now the 4,000 that the cap was, was higher than 62, that five, um, and most believe that we won't even hit 62, five and the remainder of this fiscal year. Um, so it probably means, uh, a couple thousand for San Diego at some point. I mean, that that'd be my guess. Speaker 3: 15:38 So exactly. What kinds of resources do you offer to help someone or a family start their lives here in San Diego? Speaker 6: 15:45 So it's really pretty, uh, um, I mean the first thing that happens is a, is a health screening and we make sure that, you know, that folks come here, um, just medically are good to go. Um, so the services include everything from English, learning English to I'm making sure that, that, you know, that they, um, take advantage of the classes that are available here in San Diego, uh, to employment work, to setting up their home, to, um, dealing with all of the issues that you can imagine that, um, one needs to be taken care of. Um, and, uh, these individuals are eligible for benefits. So we also need to make sure that any kind of public benefit that is available, that, that we make sure that they take advantage of that. So, um, our staff will work one-on-one with a family and we're with individuals and, and, and really get them established here. Speaker 3: 16:34 And can you talk about some of the circumstances people have had to flee from, to come to the United States? Speaker 6: 16:40 So that varies, um, and it varies based on what country they've come from. So in the past, um, you know, individuals that come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo they've come from Miramar, um, they've come from, um, obviously before the Trump administration, they came from many countries in the middle East, so it varied, but, um, I mean, the one common denominator with anyone who, um, is being resettled, anyone who is part of the refugee program is, um, they are no longer in the country where they were originally living, you know, um, almost always they were, um, they come here via, um, having spent a fair amount of time in a refugee camp. And so, um, they left wherever they were, um, because of a direct threat to their safety and security. And so all of them, um, have some level of trauma, all of them have had some experience, you know, that has allowed them to get this far. Um, and I would say that, you know, the program that we're a part of, which is also part of the United nations, you know, the, the individuals that often have, um, the most needs come to the United States. And, and so, uh, so these are folks that do need, um, I would tell you say the loving of, um, our staff and our volunteers Speaker 3: 17:52 Part of resettling is navigating the immigration system. Uh, what has that process been like? Speaker 6: 17:57 Right. So individuals who are part of, uh, who come here, uh, as refugees, um, as opposed to asylum seekers, um, have a clear path to citizenship. And, uh, after five years they're eligible to become a citizen. And, um, during that period, uh, we work with them to make sure that all the paperwork is completed. We also make sure that they are prepared for this test and ship tests. We offer those types of classes here at Jewish family service. And so their, um, their path is much more defined. Um, and they come here, um, already, um, you know, in line to be a citizen, um, folks that come as asylum seekers have a really different process in terms of, um, that there's actually a whole, you know, a whole process of a hearing and to determine whether or not they're actually eligible to be successful in asylum. So that's a really different, uh, piece of legal work then, uh, then, um, folks that come as part of the resettlement program Speaker 3: 18:52 Right now, what's the biggest challenge your organization faces in helping refugees? Speaker 6: 18:56 The biggest challenge is always the challenges that, um, has existed in the past is that, um, you know, very often we don't get a lot of notice. Um, and so, you know, so we, we we're prepared and we're ready. And then, uh, you know, and then we wait, um, it's sort of almost like when you go traveling, you know, there's a lot of hurry up, hurry up, and then you end up waiting. Um, the same thing happens in the, in this particular program where, um, we need to be prepared if somebody arrives in two days, three days, four days, but we never really know exactly when they come. Um, and then, um, often there are delays. Um, so the, the, the biggest hurdle really right now is the EU is the government. Um, and that is that the program itself has really been, uh, dismantled over the years. And so just for the government to, um, to, you know, all of the screening, all of the work that's done to make sure that the folks that are bedded properly, um, uh, it takes a while. And so we are anxiously awaiting folks to arrive here. Um, so just that Jewish family service in the last year, 42 folks have been resettled. Um, and in past years, that number could be as high as 300, 400, 500. And so, um, you know, staffing up to that number is obviously we're, it's in progress. Speaker 3: 20:08 I've been speaking with Michael Hopkin, CEO of Jewish family services. Michael, thanks for joining us. Speaker 6: 20:14 You're welcome. Thank you. Speaker 3: 20:26 Female recruits went through Marine bootcamp in San Diego for the first time this spring, as they are set to graduate these new Marines and their instructors say the time has come for them to keep training on the West coast KPBS, military reporter. Steve Walsh has the story though isolated. The first group of female recruits to train San Diego, understood Speaker 7: 20:48 People were watching. Some were cheering them on while others were more negative, like Fox news, host Tucker Carlson, who called efforts to accommodate female troops, a mockery of the U S military senior drill instructor, Amber Starasia. Speaker 8: 21:04 They're not oblivious to what happens on social media. They know what's being said. I think it became more of a challenge to them to push them to be harder than it did set them back. Speaker 7: 21:14 As often followed the women as they ran, swam climbed obstacles and crawled through the California dirt. Speaker 8: 21:23 [inaudible] Speaker 7: 21:24 The low point came midway through the 13 weeks as drill instructors, Stephanie fall. Speaker 8: 21:29 When it came to the initial drill, they were very, very nervous and, and they missed a lot. And we, we actually tied for last Speaker 7: 21:37 Drill, synchronized marching. The women came in behind the five male platoons. The males are loud as they move their weapons in unison from shoulder to shoulder, Women are meticulous, better attention to detail, but they weren't confident then came round to final drill, says, recruit Marie Anne Pata. Speaker 8: 22:00 I think we all woke up and said, why do we put ourselves down? Everyone else is breaking her style. We're supposed to be the ones building ourselves back up. Speaker 7: 22:14 They won beating the five other platoons, Speaker 8: 22:17 And you could tell the moment we hit that parade deck, there was just passion. All of us remembered why we wanted to be a bird Speaker 7: 22:24 At 21. Patara is older than the average recruit. She dropped out of college in her junior year. When she ran out of money, she was homeless for a time. Her parents didn't want their honors student daughter to join the Marines. Speaker 8: 22:37 We made our statement if a good, uh, there were a lot of tears were there at outset platoon, 32, 41 drill. There were a lot of tears. We were so happy. Speaker 7: 22:48 There were more tears to come. Unlike the Marines, traditional training site for women in flats, swampy Parris Island, South Carolina, West coast bootcamp culminates with scaling the Reaper, a summit that looms over training at camp Pendleton. Speaker 8: 23:02 You see the Reaper, even at the chow hall at us girls, even I've overheard a male recruits, you see it, you just kind of troubled, Speaker 7: 23:12 But they reached the top where they held the traditional ceremony. Each new Marine received an Eagle globe and anchor pin. The symbol of the Marine Corps, Pata, muddy and sleep deprived, held it in their Palm. Speaker 8: 23:25 So more, so much more than it thought it was going into it. Speaker 7: 23:29 Graduates of West coast. Bootcamper dub Hollywood Marines. And these women are the first female Hollywood Marines in the hundred year history of San Diego bootcamp. Speaker 8: 23:39 And it's true. Looking down at this. I, I didn't think I was strong enough to be here every single day. I was scared be here. This shows to everyone that I actually can show this myself that I'm bigger than him. Speaker 7: 23:52 Marines are the last service to fully integrate women into bootcamp. They are under a congressional mandate to open bootcamp in San Diego to women, but the deadline is 2028 for now. Another cycle of women isn't scheduled for San Diego, senior drill instructors to Rasik. Doesn't want it to end Speaker 8: 24:11 We're on a high right now. And I think the perfect thing for this high would be to continue pushing forward. They can do everything that is done out here. They prove that pretty thoroughly that yes they can. And actually they can do it really well Speaker 7: 24:31 Unless something changes. These 53 women are the first and at least for awhile, the last female Hollywood Marines Speaker 1: 24:42 Joining me is KPBS. Military reporters, Steve Walsh, Steve, welcome. I'm Maureen, has there been any reason given why another group of women isn't scheduled to go through bootcamp in San Diego? Speaker 7: 24:56 Well, I have a little bit more of an insight because I was able to talk to the, uh, the Colonel in charge of MCRD San Diego, Colonel Matthew Palma. He says, he's not heard about another group of female recruits being scheduled. And since these Marines officially graduate tomorrow morning over to MCRD, the assumption is there won't be another class in the near future. Now they don't know for sure, but Palm to emphasize that this was a test though. It's a proof of concept as he calls it. They're not required by law to have these women training regularly at MCRD San Diego until 2028. And they don't have to integrate bootcamp at Parris Island until 2025. No, Speaker 1: 25:36 Obviously the women Marines you spoke with were very happy with the success of their training, but is that how the Marine Corps brass feels about their performance? Speaker 7: 25:47 Well, I mean, there was a great deal of publicity surrounding this. So I assume they didn't want the women to fail all eyes were on this. And not only just on these women, but on the Marine Corps as a whole, they have to show that the Marine Corps can handle the tasks that, you know, given to them by Congress. The commandant of the Marine Corps has said publicly that they are going to comply with the law. So, uh, the Marines, uh, like the idea that somehow everyone is, is kept to the same standards, both men and women, and these women did keep to the same standard and they did excels the Marines, still do struggle with the basics. They have to redesign packs and body armor to better fit women. These women get a lot more lower body injuries, and there's a feeling that they redesign the packs in a different ways that could make it easier for women to hike long distances without injuries, but they haven't made a decision on when we're going to see more women in MCRD San Diego. And when I talked to Colonel Palmer, he says, you know, it's his hope that it's, that they beat that 20, 28 deadline, but they really don't know. Speaker 1: 26:53 Now you told us the story about the female platoon first failing, and then succeeding actually winning the drill are Marine recruits always separated into male and female platoons. Yeah, Speaker 7: 27:06 They are. That's, that's kind of the whole gist of this. This is why Congress is pushing them to integrate the, uh, male and female recruit training. You know, and I'm going to follow up on this story with, with one more feature after they graduate about the difference between the Marines and the other services. Actually, they sent some representatives from MCRD San Diego to the other services bootcamps to see how it was done. You know, the other services, combined males and females at the platoon level, they're all in the same platoon operating the same way, which is the way that things are when they're out in the field after they graduate. It's really only the Marines that, that like separating them. And th and this initial step. So at San Diego, they, they integrate much of the training, but when they were in the field, they trained alongside men. They worked in small groups where at times they were leading the male recruits and switching off, which is the hallmark of Marine training is working in these small groups. So the question is, is whether keeping them separate, even satisfies the law, put into place to integrate bootcamp by 2028. But I'm going to get into that in another piece. Speaker 1: 28:16 Now you mentioned the criticism directed toward female military personnel by Tucker Carlson and those comments on social media. I know that you keep up with what's being said online. So is there a lot of negativity directed towards these women? Speaker 7: 28:31 You know, first I want to emphasize that I had many female Marines and female, former female Marine vets who contacted me online. They were very excited, very proud about what was happening here. They were retweeted these stories, which were very popular, but yeah, you know, Tucker Carlson's comments seem to provoke, uh, re uh, while it did provoke a response from the commandant of the Marine Corps, supporting these women. And, and those comments of the comment on the Marine Corps were read to those recruits while they were going through training. But yes, you saw online, you saw these sort of crusty veterans claiming that, you know, either women didn't belong there or somehow that they weren't following the same standards as, as the male recruits, there were some somehow like, you know, lessening the standards. And the one positive of all this publicity is everything. These female recruits was incredibly well-documented. We were there several times documenting it. There were other local news outlets and national news outlets there. I think I counted maybe two separate documentary crews that were looking at it. So when, when they went through this whole process and they showed the successes, they did, it really did emphasize, you know, that these women did what the, what the Marines said they were doing, which is keeping to the very same standards. What struck you Speaker 1: 29:53 The most in speaking to the female recruits about their boot camp experience? Speaker 7: 29:59 Well, these are, most of these are 19 year olds who are often not the most articulate people in the world, but I will say these women really, even though they were in some ways picked at random, or that they didn't really have much of an idea that they were going to be the part of this first class until really only, just a short time before they, they came to San Diego. But even so many of them had a real sense of the moment here. They, they also had a sense of purpose. They knew why they wanted to be Marines. You know, I kept asking questions like, you know, there, the Marines have less than, less than 10% of Marines are female. They seem to be women who wanted this specifically, this challenge, they call themselves the fewer and the prouder, which is a play on the Marine slogan, the few, the proud, the Marines. And they were really proud of the fact, not only that they were able to do this, but that they are part of such a small and elite group. Speaker 1: 30:54 I've been speaking with KPBS, military, or Porter, Steve Walsh. Steve, thank you very much. Thanks Maureen. A graduation ceremony for the new Marines takes place tomorrow morning at MCR day, Speaker 3: 31:18 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Heintzman with Maureen Kavanaugh. The pandemic's impact on education had a profound effect, not just on students and their parents, but on educators, as well as learning moved away from the classroom. It was teachers who had to pivot and develop new and innovative ways to reach their students to ensure that their education did not suffer because of COVID yesterday three educators within the San Diego unified school district were honored for their excellence in teaching throughout the year of unprecedented change. One of those educators, fifth grade teacher, Thomas Courtney of choice meat elementary joins us now. Thomas, welcome. Speaker 9: 32:00 Hi, thanks for having me glad to be here Speaker 3: 32:02 And congratulations to you. Thanks. I appreciate it. Yes. So how does it feel to be one of three educators recognized for excellence in teaching during such a difficult time for your profession? Speaker 9: 32:14 That's the hardest question that I think, uh, I have to answer, but mostly what I sum it up as saying is when you hear the speeches from the other people that were selected, it makes me absolutely honored to be there. What I heard last night from all of them was a commitment to change after the pandemic and a commitment to the students throughout it. So I was completely honored in Florida to be there with them. You know, I'm how your approach Speaker 3: 32:40 To teaching was changed by the pandemic. I mean, how did you initially adjust to remote learning? Speaker 9: 32:45 I think it's fair to say, not too well. I think it was difficult for myself. I'm kind of that extrovert in the classroom that wears costumes and dances and sings to like eighties music to announce the homework so that doesn't always transfer over to the virtual environment. But, um, what we, I think what we did discover was that every teacher has their own innovative way of bringing things to the classroom. And so once I think I figured that out that, you know, this is just another hurdle to cross to connect with students. That's when I think things started really taking off. And interestingly after the pandemic is over, I think some of those lessons that I've learned, and I think many teachers, if not, all of them feel the same way we're going to have a bucket full of, of tricks that we can use, uh, afterwards, even in a physical environment Speaker 3: 33:33 And as an educator. Um, I know this is true for you. One of the most important components of your job is really maintaining a connection to your students. How did you manage to do that? During the pandemic? Speaker 9: 33:45 For me, it began with actually driving around. It was really difficult for me to, to have a relationship with families, um, virtually or over the phone. So I got in my truck. Sometimes my dog came, sometimes I brought my skateboard. Sometimes a student teacher and a mask drove around with me and we just knocked on doors when families were okay with that. We announced events where the students could drive through for various things. And every, every opportunity was just that it was a chance for us to connect. So for example, we had a celebration that was called our birthday, where everybody was able to come through and get a piece of cake. Um, no matter what day their birthday was. So we could all celebrate. We reversed Halloween because the students were a little upset about not being able to trick or treat understandably. So we brought the candy to them. And so we've been doing quite a few events like that. And I really do believe that every one of those outreach events that we've had really has carried us through it. Speaker 3: 34:37 Now you teach fifth grade students. I'm curious as to what challenges that particular age group might present to teaching in a year of distance learning. Speaker 9: 34:48 Well, I better be really careful here because not only do I teach fifth grade students, I also have a fifth grade daughter who is a student at my school. Um, and Ms. Bore has incredible classroom. And so I think what I'm learning is that number one, fifth graders, probably like other students are very resilient. I think also one of the things that I've noticed is that fifth graders, um, are often at that age where they can be left alone for a little bit moms and dads and parents and grandparents have had to work throughout this whole pandemic. And oftentimes those kids have had an opportunity to do what we're doing on the computer or something else. And I have been extraordinarily proud of the students making good choices without somebody forcing them to in our classroom. We talk a lot about the word integrity. And I think that that has really me hope for what I can bring back to the classroom afterwards. Just realizing that that integrity, isn't something I have to teach to kids it's embedded to them. I just have to get it out of them in creative ways. So that's been really wonderful to see Speaker 3: 35:52 Theme for this year's honors was teachers leading in crisis, fostering resiliency and building a better San Diego. Do you feel that teaching during a crisis affected the education your students received Speaker 9: 36:05 That is a consistent thing that I'm hearing about and all the teacher leadership groups, I'm a part of not just in San Diego, but also in the state of California and nationally, internationally with our global scholars program, I'm hearing the same thing. And I think what it really boils down to is understanding what it is that we're calling achievement and then making sure that we're teaching into what we all collectively see as in achievement. So for example, if during the pandemic, we're noticing that reading and math scores are slipping. That's something that we're going to need to focus on because reading and math as a base for everything else, but what else are we noticing that schools have missed? You know, schools should be places that kids miss on a daily basis. So what other things may be have we missed that? Haven't been a part of our school routine that are coming back in a big way. And I'm talking about humanities, I'm talking about sciences, I'm talking about theater, I'm talking about, uh, VAPA. I'm talking about all those things that gets, give kids a moment to shine that then inspires them to do the nitty gritty work as well. So I'm really geared up and excited for the changes that especially San Diego unified is going to make post pandemic. That's what I'm hearing from everybody. And it's pretty awesome. Speaker 3: 37:20 There's that old saying that in every crisis, there's an opportunity. Was there any way you were able to take advantage of the changes in learning over the past year, um, and make them positive for your students? Speaker 9: 37:32 Yeah. And, and, and you know, what the great part about that is? It's not just me. In fact, I, like I said, I, I have to really give credit to our entire staff here at choice made from our principal, Ms. Hunter Clark, to all the amazing teachers I work with. I'm hearing people doing amazing things, giving an example, Ms. Cosara, as a teacher I work with, and this sixth hour that we're teaching that's provided by sending a unified has given her an opportunity that she wouldn't have in a class for students to bring instruments. And she starting a school band that is incredible. Uh, that is just a, an, a really incredible silver lining from all of this. I'm excited about running a version of our, um, tournaments for soccer and basketball, maybe perhaps involving Pictionary, um, online for students. And then we're also talking about doing all of these things between classrooms that ordinarily we wouldn't do. Speaker 9: 38:21 So now you've got competitions between classrooms. You've got coordinated, um, buddy partnerships between classrooms. You've got opportunities for parents to be involved because we have needed them and they've us. So there really are a lot of the takeaways that are going to happen from this. And, um, I think it's going to be a matter of listening to those teacher voices on what each teacher has learned and then incorporating them back in the school site. I've been teaching for 22 years. And so, you know, I'm an old dog that knows some tricks, but the young ones know tricks too. And I think we're all just going to learn from each other. I think that has been an amazing focus that we're taking away. Speaker 1: 39:02 I've been speaking with one of San Diego unified educators of the year. Tom is Courtney, a fifth grade teacher at choice meet elementary. Thomas, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. In addition to Courtney, Sharon Apple from Hoover high school and Guadalupe Celadon from C P M a middle school. We're also honored as the districts teachers of the year. Many kids have struggled with distance learning during the pandemic, but kids with disabilities have had special challenges. K QED in Northern California, works with teachers to help high school students report stories about their own lives. Students, journalists, Zachary yay is 16 and goes to Washington high school in San Francisco. He says, it's tough for kids with learning disabilities to get the help they need at school. And that the pandemic has made things even harder for them. Speaker 10: 40:07 When I was about four and a half years old, I was diagnosed with a learning disability known as autism. It was very rough growing up with it. Considering the fact that I was enabled to have an actual conversation until I was about seven years old school was very difficult for me. When I was younger, I had been working at a different pace than other students. Teachers would always discuss with my parents about ways to improve my learning. I have an IEP which stands for individual education plan. This allows special accommodations for school, but I still face some discrimination from school staff. I asked my mom, Jay, about how that played out when I was younger. Speaker 1: 40:49 This really sticks out in my head because it was right when you were going into kindergarten. And I stopped to talk to, um, your brother's former kindergarten teacher. And I asked her if she was ready to have you in her class the next year. And her response was, I don't think Zachary is going to be a good fit for my classroom. Speaker 10: 41:08 Wow. How did that make you feel? Speaker 1: 41:10 Well, I was pretty surprised and shocked, but we lucked out and we found a different kindergarten teacher who was willing to take you on. And it was a great fit. Speaker 10: 41:24 My mother is a huge advocate for me. She made sure I got every therapy camp program and accommodations. She created a parent support group at my elementary school. She wanted to help the parents that were struggling and the ones that didn't know how to advocate for their children. There was obvious discrimination against students with disabilities. Often from the teachers who were supposed to be supporting me. Teachers regularly underestimated my ability to do schoolwork because I didn't have functional speech at that time. By the time I got into middle school, my disability was almost invisible. I told a few people that I was autistic, but they didn't believe me. This is probably because they see others with autism whose behavior was different than mine boy, because I got support from my parents when I was little, I didn't struggle at school anymore. Many people with autism, however, have social problems, sensory processing issues, and even difficulty understanding instructions at my current school, my case manager, Ms. Klaus helps me to advocate for myself. She also makes sure that I'm on the right track with my schoolwork. Another way I'm able to keep up with school is communicating with my teachers to make accommodations when necessary. I recently spoke to Ms. Kloss about discrimination in schools, Speaker 11: 42:54 Students with IEP, his face, uh, discrimination from a variety of sources and a variety of levels, um, ranging from their peers and other adults to also ranging from small comments or name calling all the way up to people calling into question whether or not them receiving accommodations and services is appropriate. What do you mean by that? With not it's people who talk about how well it's not fair. If someone gets extra time to do something because that's not fair to everybody else, or it's not fair that those kids get a smaller class. Why does that matter? That's problematic because students with IEP need those things to be able to succeed. And when you talk about fairness, it shouldn't be everyone getting exactly the same thing. It should be everyone getting what they need. Speaker 10: 43:49 What other factors contribute to discrimination Speaker 11: 43:52 Don't even get me started on the low levels of funding for special education, because that is discrimination in its own way. Speaker 10: 44:01 I've heard classmates say, this person has autism or use the R word as a slur. People assume that students who have disabilities are just straight up stupid. They can't accomplish goals in life and their feelings won't be hurt. When insulted bullies often manipulate people with disabilities by playing mind games. They don't understand right now during distance learning, many students with individual education plans are struggling to have all their met because of the pandemic. Thousands of students who would normally have a one-on-one aid are not receiving services. This means they cannot meet their academic behavior, social and emotional goals. These students will be further behind when we go back. The fight for disability rights is still an ongoing battle. It helps that there are people like my mom, my case manager, and even my friends who are passionate to help people with disabilities that was student journalist, Zachary. Yay.