Baby Bumps

Teachers react to maternity leave laws in U.S. and teaching while pregnant.

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Baby Bumps

Potter teaches her third hour honors Pre-Calculus class on Dec. 3.

Potter teaches her third hour honors Pre-Calculus class on Dec. 3.

Maddie Clark

Potter teaches her third hour honors Pre-Calculus class on Dec. 3.

Maddie Clark

Maddie Clark

Potter teaches her third hour honors Pre-Calculus class on Dec. 3.

Kathryn Case, Writer

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Teaching while pregnant, business teacher Meghan Trader said requires asking a lot of her body. This drastic change is not made any easier as the teachers in the Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission School District are only given an unpaid 12 weeks for maternity leave. 

Currently there are four teachers either pregnant or are on maternity leave at BVNW, math teachers Carolyn Potter and Laura Deffer, ELA teacher Rachel Quezada and Trader, who are dealing with this reality. 

If a teacher has enough sick days built up, she is allowed to use those days in addition to the unpaid leave, in which she would be paid only for the sick leave days, Trader said. Having not enough sick time built up, Trader said she will be taking the standard 12 weeks off. 

“It depends on how long you have been with the district and what you can qualify for,” Trader said. “If teachers have been in the district long enough, they have been able to build up their bank of sick days. I just haven’t been here long enough, and I have already gone through a leave [with two previous children] which depletes all of your sick time.”

In the US, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires twelve weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of a newborn or newly adopted children if they work for a company with 50 or more employees. Compared to other countries, such as the United Kingdom, with a 40 week paid maternity leave, the United States trails behind in the number of weeks and amount of paid leave it offers when it comes to its maternity leave policy, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Deffer said she wishes maternity leave in the United States was as elongated as it is in foreign countries.  

“I would definitely love to take a whole year off and stay home with the baby,” Deffer said. “My job is also something that I like to do, so having to balance work and family is difficult. I’m definitely jealous that they get a year off in other countries, but that also means time away from my students.” 

In order to take time off, Trader said there is paperwork that has to go through the district office and lots of planning required to make leaving for 12 weeks possible.

“It’s a ton of work. Teachers always joke that it’s more work to not be in school than it is to be in school, since it’s so hard to take days off,” Trader said. “I have spent hours and hours prepping lessons for while I’m gone and preparing the teacher who is taking my spot.”

Trader said, in an interview on Nov. 7, that between her classes, DECA, FBLA and the Dawg House, teaching while pregnant has been exhausting, but also a good distraction.

“One thing I like about teaching while I’m pregnant is that you have to just keep working and you don’t have time to feel sick, because you have 20 to 30 kids in your classroom that you still have to be attentive to and to make sure that they are getting what they need,” Trader said.

With her third baby, MacGregor Robert Trader, born Nov. 14, Trader said she struggled trying to find a long-term sub due to elective teachers not having as many options to choose from. Hoping her students are in good hands while she is gone, Trader said she wishes for an easy changeover between herself and the long term sub, Chris Linner.  

“I want it to be a smooth transition so while I’m gone the students would still be getting the same or at least a similar curriculum,” Trader said. “I also want to make sure I’ve done all that I can to prep so that people aren’t floundering or struggling.”

Not seeing her students every day is something Trader said she is going to miss the most while she is gone. 

  “I’ll miss the students, because I love teaching, and it’s fun to be here,” Trader said. “Building relationships with kids is a huge part of my job, which I love, so it’s sad to think that I won’t get to see my students.” 

Teaching while pregnant has also prompted changes in the routines of the teachers, but hasn’t affected their overall teaching style. 

“I am very tired at the end of the day, and I can tell when I’ve been on my feet a lot,” Deffer said. “Sometimes the baby has the hiccups during class, which is kind of embarrassing because my belly moves, but other than that, how I teach is pretty much the same.”

Trader said adjusting to teaching while pregnant was easier due to her helpful students. 

“I have great students. I’ve had to ask people to carry things for me because I can’t carry a box in front of my belly,” Trader said. “Luckily I have such great students that have helped make it so much easier.”

With her due date in April, Potter said she will be taking off the end of the school year for her maternity leave. Taking time away from her classes and students, Potter said, will be a difficult transition for her. 

“Being gone and having someone teach in my absence causes me a lot of anxiety because, even though I know the long-term sub will be fully capable, I just worry and want what’s best for my students,” Potter said. “It’s hard to disengage mentally when I know that my students will still be here while I’m at home.”