Adeyemi Adams has teaching in his genes. His grandparents and parents were teachers and in his home country Nigeria.
He came to the U.S. on a Ph.D. studies scholarship at Oklahoma State University. As a graduate research assistant, he focused on molecular virology.
His journey led him to Lake Highlands High School where he started coaching soccer and teaching ESL science courses.
In his first year, he received the 2018 PTA Wildcats Award and then won the 2020 RISD Super Teacher Award.
“I teach mainly ESL students, most of which are in their first few months to years in the United States,” Adams says. “They have been very outstanding all round, and their performance has been above and beyond expectations.”
Adams says he is concerned about his 5-year-old son and pregnant wife. Here are his thoughts on schools reopening among the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is your background?
I was born in Nigeria and now a naturalized U.S. citizen. I am from a family of teachers. My grandparents were teachers and principals, same as my parents. Now, my wife and I are teachers. Teaching has always been a strong passion for me, even when it was considered an easy gateway to poverty. Teachers were very poorly paid in Nigeria. The pay is a bit better now. I believe the teaching profession is the greatest platform to make impact and change the world.
How do you feel about teachers returning to class in the fall?
I must say that I am probably the No. 1 person that wants students back in school. I love seeing my students everyday, and I always look forward to seeing them. Summer break is too long for me not to be in class, so I always seek to teach summer school. However, as a trained public health researcher and virus expert, I fully understand the danger in rushing kids to go back in person. Especially in Texas where cases have been skyrocketing. Good news is that parents have been given the chance to choose between in-person and virtual but teachers’ choices are very narrow, if any. Forcing teachers to go back in person at this time is a recipe for disaster, one that will not only affect the teachers but also the students, their families and society at large. Even if we assume that the chances of kids getting sick is low, we need to remember that the teachers and other school staff, including substitute teachers, are not kids. A large portion are people in the vulnerable bracket. They can contract the virus from the kids and also transmit it.
What are some solutions?
There is no perfect solution, but there are some reasonable solutions. We need to pick the best of those. All schools should be virtual for at least the first 12 weeks while we push for better safety measures and more testing in society at large. Remember, these kids don’t live in a vacuum, and they won’t live 24/7 in the school building. They are in contact with others in society. Yes, we know this may not be the ideal situation. Yes, we know that in-person instruction is better but safety comes first. Reopening schools too soon will result in a massive mess. Students will contract the virus and spread it to the teachers, friends and family members. It will only take a few weeks after reopening schools before we go back home because the incidence rate will skyrocket. If it is not good for the bigger society then it is obviously not good for our kids and schools. This is not rocket science.
How do you feel like a “guinea pig?”
I feel like a guinea pig because it is clear that the politicians pushing for schools to open in-person are leaving teachers with little or no choice. They are aware of the danger of such suicidal decisions. For example, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott wants schools open but said on Fox Business Network that his grandchildren won’t be attending and are opting for distance learning. I and millions of teachers in Texas and across America love our kids and sacrifice immensely for them. We don’t want them to be experimental objects in the hands of some politicians who have shown us multiple times that they only care about their family and money.
What about your concern for your wife and kids
My kid, just like any other kid, deserves to be safe. Sadly, that seems threatened as myself and my wife are subjects of a proposed political sacrifice. We can only pray that we survive this pandemic, made worse by selfish individuals in places of power and their enablers.