Students and parents are circulating a petition asking Arlington ISD to let a beloved teacher do her job from home. The educator resigned, unwilling to teach in the building as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
It was many years ago at Wood Elementary School in Arlington that a kindergarten student named Michelle Nogle briefly put down her scarecrow costume and got her first taste of teaching.
"My kindergarten teacher had to stick her head out in the hall to tell someone something for a second, and I stand up and said, 'OK everyone it's time to put away your crayons'" Nogle said.
She said she took over the class and fell in love with leading.
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Now, all grown up, she's still in Arlington ISD, teaching U.S. history at Juan Seguin High School. It's a picture-perfect story, at least it was until last week when Michelle left the school because the district wouldn't allow her to teach remotely.
"My dad is 71, he's actually a polio survivor," she said. "That reality of what a virus can do is very real to us."
First, she called in sick for 30 days, creating lesson plans, grading papers and uploading lessons from home, while a teacher sat in the room. When the vacation and sick days ran out, thinking about her aging parents, who she still lives with, Nogle said goodbye to her students.
"I was sobbing the whole time, they're sending messages, got messages from kids who were outraged, really upset," she said.
Arlington ISD issued this statement Tuesday.
"The Arlington ISD stated from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that safety was our No. 1 priority and that reasonable accommodations, when and where appropriate, would be made for employees with personal medical conditions and other needs. Employees are offered multiple solutions including temporary work accommodations, FMLA, EFMLA, FFCRA and unpaid leave. The district has not requested resignations from employees due to COVID related restrictions."
Nogel said she doesn't hold any anger toward the district where she fell in love with teaching. She said it's a national problem -- one she hoped lawmakers do something about.
For now, this energetic teacher, loved by her students probably isn't where she belongs.
"I have to find a way to pay the bills. Amazon's hiring for the holidays," she said.
Many districts have let teachers lead instruction from home and communicate with students virtually, by projecting their image on a screen. Arlington ISD had not responded Tuesday afternoon about whether they allow it and what the criteria may be.