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Episode 51: An Up-Close Look Inside Classrooms and an Historic Touchdown on the Football Field

On this episode of the Supercast, we take you inside some classrooms with Rich Saunders, Interim Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health. Mr. Saunders stopped by to see first-hand how teachers and students are doing and learning during the pandemic.

But first, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey heads out to the Herriman High football field to meet the young man behind a history making touchdown.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent Godfrey:
Hello, and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. We take you inside some classrooms in Jordan School District on a tour with Rich Saunders, executive director of the Utah Department of Health. Mr. Saunders stopped by to see first-hand how teachers, students, and administrators are doing during the pandemic.

But first we head out to the Herriman High School football field to meet the young man behind a history making touchdown. We are here at Herriman High School with running back Nu'u Tafisi. In August, the entire nation was hungry for sports, and the first football game in the nation was played at Herriman High School. And you were the first one to score a touchdown in the nation this year. How did that feel?

Nu'u:
Ah, you know, so good. Just going out to play football with my boys. We had to wear face masks on the sideline and, you know, just going through everything with the COVID is just something that we had to adapt to.  And we did, as you can see in the film. I celebrate with my line, you know, we had it every time.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I like how you talked about celebrating with your line. Nobody does it alone. There are a lot of people that participated in that, but you got to carry the ball across the line.

Nu'u:
The line is everything to me, you know.  Without a line, I can't do anything as a running back.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, there's a lot for us to all learn from. We're relying on each other more than ever just to get through the pandemic and make sure that everybody has as much opportunity at school and athletics and activities and in the classroom as well. So, it's a great example of what we're all trying to do. Has being part of football helped you through the pandemic because we were all isolated for a long time? Did it feel good to be back with everyone?

Nu'u:
Yes, definitely. You know, being at home and quarantined is really waring and, just to get something for the people to watch, you know, some sort of entertainment is good.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, do you get energy from the fact that people are watching and cheering you on? Is that an important part of what you're doing on the field?

Nu'u:
Yes, definitely. Without the fans, I don't even think that'd be playing football.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks to Nu'u Tafisi for stopping for an interview. I know you've got to get there and practice for tomorrow night's game. So, good luck out there.

Nu'u:  Thank you.

Superintendent Godfrey:  We're here with Brock Hollingsworth at Herriman High School. Brock, tell us what sports do you play? What positions do you play?

Brock:
I play football. I would play track to get ready for football, get my speed up, but mainly football. I play safety, corner, receiver, return kicks, or return punts, you know, just wherever coach needs me. Just get a little burst going. That's where, that's where I like to go and just get some energy going in the field.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I rely on people like you, people I can put anywhere to do what needs to be done. So that's awesome. How did they feel to get to return as an athlete this fall, after being cooped up in the spring because of the pandemic?

Brock:
Oh, it was amazing. Like you're just aching to play football. I've been playing football since I was a little boy. And so, it was, it was on a cycle, you know.  You get this much off of football and then you go and play it again. And the fact that it could have been taken away this year, it felt like it wasn't on the same cycle. He had to wait a little longer. I was just aching and itching to get back out there and just get working with the boys.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Do you think you played with a greater intensity because you had this kind of pent up desire to get on the field and to be with your team?

Brock:
Oh yeah. You're always going to play with a different intensity on the first game. You go out and everyone's got the first game jitters. Especially how we haven't been able to play for so long and being able to practice and stuff. That definitely is a big, factor going into that game and knowing that we were on TV and stuff. That was also a little urge. So, it gets people going on that too.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yes. You have national attention just because you were playing and that adds a different layer to everything when you know you're on that stage.

Brock:
Oh yeah. You know there weren't that many people in the stands, but in your mind, you know that there's people watching at home. People I have never even talked to before were texting me after the game saying good game, this and that. And I was thinking, "Wait, I've never talked to you before my life". So just knowing that they're watching, that means like a lot more people are watching and it's just crazy.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, I think you have an opportunity to see just how much it means to people to be able to watch high school athletics and be part of that. It's exciting for us as a district to know that we're so well represented by you here at Herriman High.

Brock:  Oh yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, are you still feeling that level of intensity, that excitement that you had at the start?

Brock:
Oh yeah. You always want to come with the same intensity, same excitement. We love the game and we know the community loves the game and, just going out there and if you look at the ticket sales, the tickets sell out in 30 seconds, it's crazy. People are really ready to get out and watch a game. And so, knowing that all those people are watching and you got to go give them a show, because the community means so much. Our fundraisers, all of that stuff, they do that for us we can go and play. And, I feel like we did like a really good job, especially on protocol. I feel like the community followed that a lot, wearing their masks and staying in their sections, this and that.

So, I know there was a team that was ended up having to stop the game for a little bit because they weren't following protocol. And the fact that we didn't have to do that because our community is so good with that wants to see us play. It's just phenomenal feeling.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, you're feeling a high level of community support.

Brock:  Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And inherent, you'll always feel that everyone loves their football, especially here. So, it's just a crazy feeling going on there.

Superintendent Godfrey:  Did it feel different to you playing this year or as soon as you got on the field did it just feel like football again?

Brock:
It was a little different, you know, like you can actually hear the cadence from the quarterback, and you don't hear the whole fans screaming and stuff. But knowing that you're still out there battling out in a game, playing against another team. I mean, you practice against your own team the whole summer so it feels good.

So, going out and playing against the different teams, it's crazy going out and seeing someone on the other side of the ball that you don't know their strengths. So, you just go out there and you just play and have fun. And when you make a good play, your boys are out there with you celebrating. I mean, football is football. That's just what it is.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, I'm looking forward to making it to a game. So, I'll see out on the field. Thanks a lot for taking time to talk with us. I'll let you get back to practice so that you can have a great Friday.

Brock:
Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for taking time.

Superintendent Godfrey:
My pleasure.

Stay with us. When we come back, we'll take you inside some classrooms with Rich Saunders, Executive Director of the Utah State Department of Health.

Sandra Riesgraf:
Are you looking for a job right now? Looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career? Jordan School District is hiring. We're currently filling full and part time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher. Apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers in Jordan School District. We like to say to people, "Come for the job and enjoy the adventure". Apply today at workatjordan.org.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're here with Rich Saunders, the Executive Director of the Utah State Health Department, and he's been visiting a couple of our schools. Rich, thanks for spending the day with us.

Rich Saunders:
It has been a pleasure, and I'm amazed at the great work that's being done by your people here. The students, as well as the faculty and the staff, the administration, it's been remarkable.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, it's been great having you. I think it's very validating for teachers to see you here. Why is it important to you? I know you've been visiting schools around the State. Why is it important for you to visit schools?

Rich Saunders:
Well, we have a lot of concerns and a lot of interest in kids being able to come back to school, to be able to have in-person learning. It's a very high priority. We know it's a very important aspect of the children's lives. And we have a pandemic in our community and around the world. And we're trying to figure out how do we get the kids to safely come back to school and have effective learning, and yet balance that in with the right type of protection. We have a mask order. That's been implemented as a public health order. It's important that we understand that effective learning can take place with the masks. And if there are areas that are of a significant concern, that we address those so that we don't cause irreversible damage to the child's learning. That's why I'm out in the schools, to get an in-person look at how the kids are responding and to learn from teachers and the staff, any kind of feedback that they have about, sanitization and other protocols that take place for the experience to be wonderful in the schools.

And you know, what I'm most excited about is that the kids are happy. They were getting along just fine. They're doing well. They have to make a little sacrifice wearing a mask over their nose in their face for most of the time, but they're happy and they're doing well. It's good to see that I've observed

Superintendent Godfrey:
The same thing. It's nice to see how much the kids enjoy being back at school. And its kids being kids, even though at the same time, they're following the rules that we've put in place. We were out at lunch and they were distanced and kids were wearing masks. And yet they still ask the goofy middle-school questions. When you came to visit one of their classes, what else have you observed as you've been out in schools?

Rich Saunders:
I have observed a lot. One of the things that has been most impressive is how willing the adults, the leadership, this, the staff, the administration has been. The level of effort everyone has been willing to employ to be able to make this happen. It has been touching to me, emotional and very impressive to see the sacrifice of these great people to the youth. for them to be able to pay the price, do whatever it takes to get these kids back into the classroom. That has been very touching to me.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What message would you have for educators who are currently engaged in making the best of things during this pandemic?

Rich Saunders:
You know, it's a hard balance. We have a lot of unknown territory in this pandemic with this virus. We know a lot now, and it's tricky to step into the teaching environment where you've got a bunch of kids and where there's possible transmission. There's some risk. And I just want to express my thanks to those teachers who are willing to try to lead these kids. And we're doing everything we can to work with science and medicine and the world of education too, to come together and figure out where this balance is so that we can be effective. I think you know we care about the health and safety of the teachers. We care that they feel safe. We want to make sure that they have plenty of PPE and the things that they need to be able to perform their functions safely. We really do care and we really want to work together to make this be an effective experience for all involved.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What would you like parents to know?

Rich Saunders:
It's easy to get caught up in the emotions of what is going on. We have personal opinions of what matters most when we're in this kind of an environment. We try to put our emotions aside and figure out how to work together at it. And the kids are great. They're resilient, they're adaptable. They really want to progress forward. And I think if we all had that same mentality to try to work together, compromising where we need to sacrificing, whatever it takes to progress instead of stop and be stagnant. I think that is the place that we just do what it takes to work together.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We want to thank Rich Saunders again, not just for stopping to talk with us for the Supercast, and especially for visiting our schools and our classrooms. We appreciate all your hard work. It's obvious how much you care about the outcome. And, we just really loved having it today.

Thank you. This has been my pleasure and my compliments to the parents, to the students, to the faculty and the staff, the administration. This is a tremendous undertaking and is my privilege to be a part of it. Thank you.

Thanks for joining us. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

 

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