OHIO – Ohio School kindergarten teacher Kristin Ryan knows a little something about teaching in a rural community — she’s done so for 30 years.

That expertise came into play recently when she was asked to represent the Illinois Valley in a press conference to discuss COVID-19-related school reopenings.

As reported last month, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, one of the state’s largest teacher unions, urged schools to retain online learning until students, teachers and faculty can be assured of their safety.

“As far as the press conference goes,” she said. “That was crazy. They (IFT) tried to get a variety of representatives that have different circumstances for opening schools.”

Ryan said in Ohio, and in smaller rural districts where there is not as much spread, representatives feel they can at least open for awhile.

“We can social distance because of our size,” she said.“We have put safeguards in place and the community is confident in us.”

Ryan’s long-serving participation in the groups led to her being selected for the conference.

After serving as long-time president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ryan said when the district joined a new union several years ago, she was asked to take on the role of vice president.

“Being on the IFT Board has been eye-opening, informativeand positive,” Ryan said. “The 852 school districts in Illinois offer a variety of problems and unique circumstances. The IFT tries to see views from all angles. Members of the board represent the largest districts like Chicago and the smallest districts like me in Ohio.”

“It’s funny though,” Ryan said, “What’s considered rural. Teaching in Ohio, I’m rural even by Illinois Valley standards. I’ll never have 25 kids in my classes.”

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