You are currently viewing This teacher survived the Uvalde shooting.  Here’s why she’s going back to work – Houston Public Media

This teacher survived the Uvalde shooting. Here’s why she’s going back to work – Houston Public Media

Nicole Ogburn shows the new tool that she will use this year to know the emotional state of her students. Veronica G. Cardenas for NPR

From the door, Nicole Ogburn’s fourth grade classroom looks bright and unassuming.

New, colorful JanSport backpacks hang from small chairs. Blue and white desks with dry-erase surfaces are arranged in clusters around the room. A green bookshelf filled with rows of books is surrounded by bean bag chairs and fluffy pillows.

This year, as Ogburn prepares for her class, her first priority isn’t the decorations she usually spends the summer picking out. Instead, he buys things to help her students — and herself — feel safer in the classroom.

“I bought something that you stuck under the door so they couldn’t open the door.” I bought a draw curtain so you couldn’t see at my door if anything was going on,” Ogburn said. “We just thought about more security this year than, ‘How cute is my room going to be?'”

Ogburn is preparing for her first year as a teacher in a newly redesigned campus space, dubbed Uvalde Elementary School. For the previous seven years, Ogburn taught at Robb Elementary. The school closed after the May shootings in which 19 students and two teachers were killed. Ogburn, his co-teacher, and his students survived and escaped through a window in their classroom with the help of law enforcement.

A corridor in the redesigned campus for children in Uvalde.
A corridor in the redesigned campus for children in Uvalde. Veronica G. Cardenas for NPR
New backpacks with school supplies for pupils are seen in Ogburn's classroom.
New backpacks with school supplies for pupils are seen in Ogburn’s classroom. Veronica G. Cardenas for NPR

Although the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and state leaders announced new safety measures, the district came under pressure from parents and other community members to provide more transparency and demonstrate its ability to ensure the safety of students at school.

Ogburn said she felt there had been progress, although improvements take time.

“We’re working to be safe, and I think it will be fine on the first day of school, but it won’t be 100% done,” she said. “But, it’s ongoing.”

As she considered physical security measures, she was also trying to anticipate what it would be like when students returned to class for the first time since the May 24 shooting.

“I think I’m scared how some of these kids are going to react when they get here, and whether I’m going to be able to handle this part,” she said.

Ogburn is preparing for a very different year ahead at his school in Uvalde.
Ogburn is preparing for a very different year ahead at his school in Uvalde. Veronica G. Cardenas for NPR
The site of the redeveloped campus, named Uvalde Elementary School.
The site of the redeveloped campus, named Uvalde Elementary School. Veronica G. Cardenas for NPR

This year, she added a feature to her classroom to try to help her students express and manage their feelings. It’s a black poster that asks students to answer a question: How do you feel? Each student has their own cut-out marker, and each day Ogburn and his co-teacher plan to encourage students to place their marker next to a corresponding sentiment such as “ready to learn”, “confused” or “angry”. .

“I think, OK what if this happened today, and the whole class felt anxious or upset? There’s no way we were teaching a lesson,” she said. … how are we going to calm them down, how are we going to make this better?”

Ogburn is also worried about herself.

She said she wants to get through the year “without being a complete emotional wreck” as she works through her grief, particularly the deaths of fellow fourth grade teachers Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia.

For several years at Robb, Ogburn and his co-teacher Trisha Albarado taught in Mireles and Garcia’s adjoining classroom.

“It was hard enough not having my two friends here with us, but having my co-teacher with me helped a lot,” she said. “Because we both said if you don’t come back, I’m not coming back.” If we’re not together, we’ll fight to be together. Because we can’t do it without each other right now.

Stuffed toys and other items are seen at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the mass shooting, three months after it happened.
Stuffed toys and other items are seen at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the mass shooting, three months after it happened. Veronica G. Cardenas for NPR
Ogburn shows her Uvalde Strong bracelets.
Ogburn shows her Uvalde Strong bracelets. Veronica G. Cardenas for NPR

Since the shooting, Ogburn said she has been treated for depression, anxiety and PTSD – as have other teachers who survived. She said what she heard and saw that day was something she would experience for the rest of her life.

“Every day there can be something that triggers an emotion that I don’t want to have that day,” she said. “And right now, every day is a constant reminder, because everywhere I go is right in front of my face.”

She almost didn’t return to class. But she thought of her own children, as well as the students of Uvalde.

“I thought, I have to go back and show them first and foremost, we can’t live in fear. I mean, you never know when something is going to happen,” she said. “So I thought, I have to try not to live in this fear. I have to go ahead and show these kids, OK, Mrs. Ogburn can go back to school, so can I.

Angel wings, pinwheels and a white cloth are seen near the entrance where the shooter entered Robb Elementary School in May.
Angel wings, pinwheels and a white cloth are seen near the entrance where the shooter entered Robb Elementary School in May. Veronica G. Cardenas for NPR

Gaby Olivares and Yvette Benavides from Texas Public Radio translated this article into Spanish.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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