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Unit 5 eliminated over 30 teaching positions. One of those teachers is speaking out.

Teaching has always been a difficult profession. It's a job often associated with low pay and high stress that can sometimes require superhuman levels of patience. All of that was compounded by the pandemic, when a shift to virtual learning and fights over mask mandates was enough to push many teachers over the edge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 560,000 fewer educators and America's public schools today than at the start of the pandemic.

Unit 5 teacher Jenn Latzke.

In the Unit 5 school district, teachers are also grappling with recent budget cuts that some say have dealt a harsh blow to already low morale. The school board in March voted to cut $2.1 million in teaching jobs and educational programs next year.

Jenn Latzke’s job was among them.

Latzke teaches 8th grade social studies at Chiddix Junior High School in Normal. That will change next year when instead of having a dedicated social studies teacher, responsibility for teaching the subject will be spread among the remaining teachers on Latzke’s team. None of those teachers are certified to teach social studies, Latzke said, and that will create inequities across the district.

“I don’t know how you look at that and say that’s equitable between the four junior highs that Unit 5 has. We are the only building that is being asked to do this. Actually, not being asked – we’re being told that this is what is happening,” Latzke said.

The move is also unfair to teachers, Latzke said, saddling them with an unreasonable workload. Two of her fellow educators have already decided not to return to Chiddix next year. And Latzke worries there will be more. Parents, she said, have reason to be concerned.

“If I were a parent of a Chiddix student, I would be wanting answers.”

Listen to Part 1 of the interview:

Jenn Latzke interview - Part 1

Listen to Part 2 of the interview:

Jenn Latzke interview - Part 2

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Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.
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