Legislative Event: The Impact of COVID-19 on Schools and Classrooms


New legislators hear classroom reality stories from four Utah teachers

In an effort to inform those who make education policy decisions about the ways COVID-19 is impacting schools and classrooms, the UEA invited legislators, superintendents, school board members, state administrators and UEA leaders from across the state to hear from teachers. More than 70 participated in the online gathering Dec. 8, 2020.

The interactive discussion included a panel of four accomplished Utah teachers. These teachers shared their stories about how the pandemic is affecting their students, explained how laws and policies impact classrooms and provided insight into what they believe is really needed to ensure our Utah students have the education they deserve.

UEA President Heidi Matthews introduced the program. “On behalf of the 18,000 members of Utah Education Association, I thank you for your service and for your willingness to join us tonight to hear firsthand from our educators about the realities they face in this most challenging of years, and how the policies and legislation you all put in into place make their ways into our classrooms, schools, and how they impact our profession,” she said. “As educators we know that the decisions made by you, as policymakers, have an enormous impact on our students and their ability to have the best and most inspirational instruction in safe and well-resourced classrooms, with equitable schools at the center of our communities throughout the state.”

Matthews then introduced the teacher panelists. “These panelists are educators in our schools at various levels and subjects and from different regions of the state. Each are local leaders in their association and play an important role in working with districts in implementation. All of them are also parents of school-aged kids, so what’s happening in schools isn’t just their profession – it’s their lives.”

Teachers then responded to a few prepared questions before taking questions from the attending policymakers.

Matthews concluded by thanking the legislators for their service and encouraging collaboration between legislators and educators in the upcoming legislative session. “The purpose of tonight’s panel was to hear the voices of our boots-on-the-ground educators and the very real impact they are feeling in their professional and personal lives during COVID-19, and how the decisions that you as lawmakers make in the upcoming session impacts our education system today and into future,” said Matthews. "I hope that when legislation comes up and you are asked to weigh in, that you do so knowing the face of the educator, the counselor, the teacher that your decision will impact.”

Teacher Panelists

Sonia Cardeña, Spanish Teacher at Logan High School

Sonia has been teaching for 16 years. She earned a dual bachelor's degree in English and Spanish from Utah State University (an Aggie 100%!). Sonia is past president of the Logan Education Association.

Bailey Danielson, Instructional Facilitator in Provo School District

Bailey started teaching at a Title I school in the Granite School District in 2013. She currently serves as the president of the Provo Education Association. Bailey was named one of the National Education Association’s “30 under 30” educators.

Michael D. Gowans, Agriculture Education Instructor/FFA Advisor at Westlake High School

Michael has taught 29 years in Box Elder and Alpine School Districts. He was previously state president of the Utah Association of Agricultural Educators and the Utah Association of Career and Technical Education. Michael has served as Alpine Education Association president for 22 years.

Courtnee Justice, Sophomore Language Arts Teacher at Emery High School 

Courtnee is in her twelfth year of teaching, having taught elementary for seven years and secondary for four years. She serves as co-president of the Emery County Education Association and is a track coach and a National Honor Society advisor.

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