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'They absolutely need to be remembered': Lexington teacher memorializing colleagues lost to COVID-19

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Posted at 3:14 PM, Oct 11, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A Lexington history teacher has been overwhelmed by the tragedy she's seen all around her.

Dozens of educators across the state have died from COVID-19.

As of Monday, there were 57 educators on history teacher Jeni Bolander's list.

"I don't want to ever have to add another name to this list," she said. "I hope it stops today, and we never add number 58 and beyond."

She started keeping track this summer on the KY120 United American Federation of Teachers Facebook page.

"This is huge, and I thought it needed to be talked about and needed to be thought about, and they absolutely need to be remembered," she said.

She wanted to remember people like teacher Rhonda Estes who died back in September, and instructional associate Heather Antle who died in August.

"Rhonda was a very loving person," Estes' former student Celena Collins said. "She was like a role model to me."

"Heather was just a fantastic person you'd want by your side," Lee County Schools Superintendent Sarah Wasson said. "She loved people. She loved the students. She loved the staff. She was willing to do anything that was asked of her."

Every time Bolander adds a new person to the list, it's painful. As a teacher herself, it's personal.

She said in her 35 years as a student and teacher, she has never seen so much loss.

"In those 35 years, I can think of one elementary school teacher who died of cancer, and I had a colleague who died of cancer, so the fact that we're at 57 in 18 months and I can only think of two in 35 years before then, it's a huge deal," she said.

She hopes her colleagues will educate themselves on the vaccine to stay safe.

"If you still have those lingering questions and you are an educator, please don't go to Facebook, please don't go to social media, please don't Google it," she implored. "Go to your doctor, who you go to every other health decision you make. That is what we would encourage everybody [to do]."