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Ms. Andrews Is Back!

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Santa Fe High art teacher Ms. Andrews returned to her classroom on Feb. 5 following an extended leave of absence – equivalent to nearly two quarters – due to a medical emergency.

Ms. Andrews recounts taking a stroll in Los Alamos alongside her husband and dog one day in mid-October – and being in the emergency room the following day. “It started with intense abdominal pain,” she states, adding that what followed was “a lot of exploratory ultrasounds and x-rays.”

Eventually, after being admitted to the hospital on her fourth trip, the ER doctors determined that she was suffering from an auto-immune attack in which foreign proteins found their way into her bloodstream, and the blood vessels became dangerously enlarged. 

Ms. Andrews was transferred to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, as they were better equipped to handle a cardiovascular system attack. She underwent many transfusions of both blood and plasma, which successfully removed the protein from her blood. She recounts, “Within a few days, none of the blood in my body was my own, with so many blood transfusions.”

Following a stay in the hospital of approximately 18 days, Ms. Andrews began the long healing process at home on Nov. 11, most of which involved building up strength and muscle and ensuring that her kidneys and other threatened organs were “bouncing back.” 

Meanwhile, during her leave of absence, students were expected to keep up with assignments and/or independent work. AP Studio Art students had to take special care to ensure they were not falling behind in their portfolio production. 

Ms. Andrews reports that although some students certainly work better with her instructions, “Most kids stayed in [her] class and they did the work.”

However, Art 1 student Himaja Sunkara observes, “Because [we were allowed to] be more independent, many people seemed to be off task.”

AP Studio senior Gabbi Herbert states, “[Working without Ms. Andrews] was difficult, because we didn’t have as much access to materials and, being on an AP track, you kind of need that.…  I felt like I was just missing the instructional part.”

Ms. Andrews’ presence in the classroom was perhaps the most missed aspect of her leave, demonstrated by Gabbi’s saying, “I missed her energy in the classroom. It’s always a good day when you walk in and she’s always happy to see me. I was worried about her because that part of class was missing.”

Although she was on sick leave, Ms. Andrews still updated grades, checked attendance, and reached out to students if absences or missing work warranted it. “If I see that you are being marked absent, I will reach out to see what is up,” she wrote in one of her sporadic emails to students. Additionally, she set up an AP Classroom so that her AP students’ exams could be officially ordered and their photos could be uploaded to portfolios.

Now that she is feeling much better and back on her feet, Ms. Andrews recounts, “What I really missed was the students and teaching. School politics I did not miss at all.” She explains that the attack was likely partially the result of the stress imposed upon her (and other teachers) by pedagogical changes implemented by the district.

A long-term substitute teacher was hired sometime around late October, whose major tasks were taking attendance and relaying information, instructions, and assignments from Ms. Andrews to her classes. She remained in the classroom until Ms. Andrews’ return.

Himaja adds that she certainly missed Ms. Andrews’ “spirited presence in the classroom.” 

Ms. Andrews would like to advise students – her “lovebugs,” as she calls them – to “take care of your mental and physical health, because that is all you have.” She continues, “Give yourself kindness and breaks. It’s just not worth the stress… you only have one body your whole life.”

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