Muskegon educators among first in nation to receive COVID-19 vaccine

'I was filled with so many emotions about it. Just the honor, the fear, the excitement.'
Posted at 6:21 AM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 06:21:09-05

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Governor Whitmer is "strongly encouraging" K-12 schools to offer in-person learning again no later than March 1. It's a big reason why educators are near the top of the vaccination list in the U.S.

Two educators who were vaccinated the first full week of January 2021 are Katie Slaghuis and Nicole Mastenbrook.

Slaghuis is the principal of Transition at Muskegon Area Intermediate School District - Craig Campus. "I was filled with so many emotions about it. Just the honor, the fear, the excitement," she tells us.

Mastenbrook is a special education teacher at Muskegon ISD Transition - Craig Campus. "When I heard that it was coming for the teachers, I was so excited," Mastenbrooks reflects.

As a special education teacher, Mastenbrook has had to continue working physically with students during the pandemic. She assists with tube feeding and bathroom procedures, so social distancing is not an option.

When first hearing of the vaccine, Mastenbrook admits, "I was a little hesitant."

However, after months of working in the classroom "up close and personal" with extensive PPE, Mastenbrook grew excited about the vaccine.

"Knowing I can walk into my classroom and I have that extra layer of protection for my participants ... That makes me feel like I am doing the right thing, and keeping them safe," she says.

When I asked each educator if they've received any backlash for getting vaccinated, Mastenbrook replied, "People have shared their personal concerns as to why they're not getting the vaccine, and I have honored that. I understand all of our feelings about this are okay. This is just where I was at."

"For me personally, I do know of others that are not going to get the vaccine," she continues, "and I support that decision. But I'm super proud of the decision that I got to make for myself."

Both Slaghuis and Mastenbrook say the only side effect they have experienced from the vaccine has been slight soreness in the arm the day they got the shot and the day after.

"It's really simple, and it moved quickly," notes Mastenbrook.

They made their choice with their students in mind. It's a choice we'll all need to make for ourselves in 2021.

"I do urge staff to get the vaccination," says Slaghuis. "I know that's on everyone's personal beliefs and trust in that ... But I think to myself that we put a lot of trust in many other industries, why not the medical and science industry? So for me, that was my choice."