Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Opinion | Past Michigan Teachers Of The Year urge action on school shootings

We are way past enough is enough.

As the families of the victims in Uvalde have buried their loved ones, we are left wondering who will be next. Will it be the students we’ve served and continue to serve in our communities across Michigan? Will it happen today? Tomorrow?

Tan-A Hoffman, Rick Joseph , Jim Linsell
Tan-A Hoffman teaches 2nd grade at the JKL Bahweting Anishnabe PSA in Sault Ste. Marie. She is the Region 1 Michigan Teacher of the Year 2021. Rick Joseph teaches language arts and social studies at Birmingham Covington School. He is the Michigan Teacher of the Year 2016. Jim Linsell is a retired elementary teacher and principal in Traverse City Area Public Schools. He is the Michigan Teacher of the Year 2002.

What we know with grim certainty is that it will happen again.

It continues to be absolutely unfathomable that the world's greatest democracy cannot protect and keep its youngest members free from harm in what ought to be the safest of our democratic institutions – our public schools. 

Classroom teachers continue to absorb blow after blow after blow in this emotional roller coaster of a year known to many of us as our “Covid hangover.” We are beyond exhausted. Still, we show up at school each day ready to meet the myriad needs of our students. The realization that our lives may be snuffed out in seconds by an active shooter has added a significant level of stress that defies words.

Oxford taught us that even the hardest target with the best trained students and staff will still get hit. Children will die. Teachers will be killed protecting the students they signed up to nurture, guide, and educate. What kind of world do we continue to wake up to?

As members of the Michigan Teacher of the Year Network, we know how to do our job and we do it well. We also uplift and amplify the voices of students and teachers across the state whose emotions are frayed in ways none of us have ever experienced before.

What concrete actions can we take?   

We, as educators, citizens, and compassionate human beings, call on all people who care about the safety and well-being of children to act. Begin by contacting your state representatives and senators. It is not enough to know their names or leave them a message. We must establish and sustain a relationship with them in which we get to know their voting records on legislation that the vast majority of us agree makes sense.

There are a variety of bills that are waiting to be introduced that focus on safe storage of firearms and universal background checks. This is a good place to start. We must let our legislators who champion these bills know that we are with them and will support these efforts. Furthermore, we must convince legislators who are reluctant to get behind this legislation that supporting commonsense firearm safety laws is not political suicide.

Our students are still trying to figure out how to do school after two very disrupted years. We must continue to press for funding to increase the number of school counselors, psychologists and social workers across our state. This was an issue before the pandemic, and the ability to provide more sustained support for students has never been greater than it is today.

We plead with our legislators to understand that gun safety and mental health are not mutually exclusive. We certainly need both. The consequences for inaction have been obvious for many years and will only continue. Who will be the next to die?

We encourage all people who care about safety to attend a March for Our Lives event June 11. Our visibility and willingness to speak out in public spaces must send a message that we cannot continue with a status quo that is resigned to waiting for the next school shooting to occur.

We must continue to conduct walk-outs at our local levels to demonstrate the severity of this crisis and call attention to the need for legislators to break the political deadlock and act, much like students at Oxford High School who walked out in support of the community in Uvalde. We must not accept business-as-usual political inaction.

The time is well past for us all to speak up and speak out.

We all are weary. While we may rest, we must never stop. Our very lives and the lives of the students we serve depend on our relentless efforts, certainly as educators but also as citizens in our democracy. 

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

We're not just a news organization, we're also your neighbors

We’ve been there for you with daily Michigan COVID-19 news; reporting on the emergence of the virus, daily numbers with our tracker and dashboard, exploding unemployment, and we finally were able to report on mass vaccine distribution. We report because the news impacts all of us. Will you please support our nonprofit newsroom?

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now