Regina teacher who fought COVID-19 wants to go back to class, but not until teachers are vaccinated

It's been a rough year for students, and their teachers, bouncing between the classroom and online learning because of COVID-19. Paul Gullacher, a high school science teacher in Regina, has weathered more than his fair share of the storm.

Educators should be on the priority list to be vaccinated, says high school science teacher

Paul Gullacher and his family contracted COVID-19 in the spring of 2020. (CBC)

It's been a rough year for students and their teachers, bouncing between the classroom and online learning because of COVID-19.

Now, one high school science teacher in Regina who has weathered more than his fair share of the pandemic storm says he wants to see teachers get prioritized when it comes to getting a vaccine.

Paul Gullacher and his family were among the first people in Regina to come down with COVID-19 last year.

Early in the pandemic, Gullacher lost his father to the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

A year after contracting COVID-19, Gullacher is still experiencing debilitating symptoms.

"I'm still suffering from shortness of breath, fatigue and joint pain," Gullacher told Matt Galloway, host of CBC Radio's The Current. He feels the effect of even mundane activities, like walking up a flight of stairs, or to the park with his children, or carrying his daughter on his shoulders.

"I feel like I've aged decades," he said. "I feel my mortality more now than ever before."

As a teacher, Gullacher described the past year as dynamic.

"I would say that it's constantly changing, constantly developing new means through which to deliver instruction," he said.

"It seems like you're never doing the same thing twice. You're constantly scrambling to deliver … education as best you can in these circumstances."

As teachers try to reach the finish line in what has been an unprecedented school year, there are now growing calls to prioritize their vaccinations, with B.C. leading the way. Matt Galloway talks to teachers across the country: Paul Gullacher in Regina, Matthew Morris in Toronto, and Christine Blessin in Chilliwack, B.C. 19:53

He says he learned early on that many families don't have the technology at home for all children to participate in online lessons.

"They're maybe sharing the family laptop between three or four siblings," he said.

Gullacher said he would love to get all of the students back in the classroom, but not until teachers get some type of priority for COVID-19 vaccines.

"We're working in these aging buildings that have — well, there's no real information available on their dubious ability to move air," he said.

"So we're in these very kind of stagnant classrooms for six to eight hours at a time with these students.… At that point, mask use isn't really going to protect us, as the lingering droplets in the air begin to accumulate."

With more contagious coronavirus variants spreading at an alarming rate in Regina, he says going into a classroom in the city is a "superspreading event."

"I can't have anyone come over into my home [because of pandemic restrictions in Regina]. We have limited events outdoors to 10 people. But you're going to put 25 kids in a single room for eight hours?" he asked. "There's a disconnect there."

Gullacher wants to be protected so he can do his job safely in person and not get re-infected with COVID-19. 

"I was in really good physical condition prior to getting sick the first time. I'd never experienced pneumonia before, and I don't care to experience it again," he said.

"I don't think I'm in the same condition as I was prior. I don't know how well I would do if I got sick again."

With files from The Current