“I’m just a teacher.
Several years ago, I met Luciana Lira. Back then, we were both pursuing our master’s degrees. She and I taught in the same public-school system and happened to be neighbors. From the moment I met Luciana, I knew we would be friends. She has a kind and gentle way about her that draws you in. She services students that require English Language Learner instruction. Many that are now tasked with teaching their children at home during this Coronavirus Pandemic, can appreciate what educators like Luciana and myself face daily. Often, the role we play is much more than you can imagine. For most of us, we have been sheltering in place and continuing to teach via distance learning. For Luciana, the role of teacher has been altered forever.
A few weeks ago, Luciana received a phone call from the mother of one of her many students. The woman was clearly distressed and explained she was calling from the hospital. She told Luciana she was going into labor and had no one else she could call. She asked if Luciana would call her husband who does not speak English and is unable to read or write in English as well. Then she asked Luciana if she could come to the hospital; she had just been diagnosed with Covid-19 and she was about to deliver.
I cannot imagine what Luciana must have been thinking at that moment. But then, what do heroes think about before they put themselves in harm’s way? Luciana immediately contacted the baby’s father and rushed to meet him at the hospital, adhering to the strict 6-foot guidance for social distancing as his wife gave birth. He was terrified of the newborn baby contracting Covid-19. Although he was asymptomatic, he guessed that he would test positive, as his wife had. He requested testing for himself and his stepson. And then he asked my friend to take the baby home with her…at least until the test results came back. And of course, Luciana did. She had only known this family since the beginning of the school year, and it was only because their 7-year-old was her student. They were virtually strangers to one another. And yet, my friend did what truly good people do. She said yes. I am certain, her answer would always have been yes. What went through her mind at that moment? Luciana went to that hospital that day to help and indeed, she did. A week later the test results came back. Both the father and her student tested positive. The newborn’s pediatrician praised her, noting that had the baby gone home the outcome could surely have been tragic.
The mother remains in intensive care and is showing signs of improvement. Her husband and the new big brother are both home coping with Covid-19. The baby is being well cared for by Luciana and her family. My retelling cannot do justice to the sound of my friend’s voice as she shared the details of the events. This is not what anyone imagined. Essential workers are out there working every day. We’re all at home, working and groping for an understanding of this new normal that caught all of us off guard. But this unselfish act reminds us that our humanity makes us all essential…to each other. How will each of us respond when we are asked to simply show up and help.
The nurses at the hospital asked my friend if she was the mother’s sister, or perhaps, a cousin as she was listed as the primary contact, Luciana Lira responded, “I’m just a teacher.”