WINSTON-SALEM — Several districts across the Triad closed to students Wednesday as teachers gathered in Raleigh for the March for Students and Rally for Respect. While thousands of teachers made the trip, many did decide to stay in the classroom and use it as a work day. They had different reasons for doing so, but still voiced their support for the cause.

Nicki-Ann Vassell teaches fifth grade at Easton Elementary School in Winston-Salem. A teacher for 17 years in her native Jamaica, this is her first year working in the U.S. She made the tough decision to use Wednesday as a work day.

“I would have loved to have traveled to Raleigh. However, I have not accumulated enough personal leave as yet because I’m new to the country. I think I only have one day personal leave,” she said.

Nicki-Ann Vassell makes plans in her classroom.
Nicki-Ann Vassell makes plans in her classroom.

Vassell has a 5-year-old daughter and says she needs to save her leave for if her child gets sick. She supports her colleagues who made the trip and hopes they inspire change.

“A better salary, based on living expenses. I think the salary could be more attractive for teachers,” said Vassell.

The school’s principal says Easton Elementary has 90 employees and 20 took the day off. In the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District more than 1,900 employees were absent, almost half of the district’s 4,000 teachers.

Just across the hall from Vassell, Timothy DeCook saw Wednesday as much-needed extra planning time.

“I’d love to be out there in Raleigh, but I also know there are more important things that are going to be more beneficial for the students here that I serve and that’s kind of my priority either way,” he said.

He agrees better pay is worth fighting for, but hopes to see other change as well.

“A lot of these schools are technology deficient. They are resource deficient. We want to get away from textbooks for some reason, I don’t know why,” he told us.

Both teachers choosing not to rally, but looking forward to results from their colleagues’ trip.