Teachers offer tips to stay healthy

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:53am

It’s cold and flu season, and who knows better than teachers how to ward off sickness? They’re surrounded by children and the germs that come with them, especially in the winter.

The Enterprise talked to local teachers, coaches and bus drivers to divine their weapons in the war on winter bugs.

Lin Russell teaches fifth grade at the Brighton School in Lynnwood.

When Russell taught students with severe peanut allergies a few years back, she picked up diligent habits.

“That’s why my room is sterile, but it’s not like: ‘Don’t breathe’ – kids laugh, burp, talk,” she said.

The students clean off desktops daily with disinfectant spray and keep hand sanitizer and baby wipes at the door. Students also keep them at their desks.

“Since those little hands that are always in our hands are pretty nasty and sticky we wash a lot, especially before and after recesses and before and after lunch,” she said.

Russell also takes Airborne, a supplement created by a teacher that dumps lots of Vitamin C and other vitamins into the body.

“I have a nurse daughter and she I caught the same cold at Thanksgiving,” Russell said. “I took two doses (of Airborne) and felt fine and she took none and was sick the whole time. It was kind of our own controlled study.”

Arnie Moreno teaches physical education and coaches wrestling and tennis at Shorewood High School in Shoreline.

Moreno, who’s been teaching for 30 years, got sick a lot his first 15 years. He’s since made lifestyle changes and started getting sick very rarely. He hasn’t been sick for three years, he said.

“I started eating healthier. I also started taking more vitamin supplements and Vitamin C,” Moreno said. “I think it’s a hazard of being a teacher.”

Moreno now also gets flu shots. He said exercise is key.

“I think it builds up immunity. It’s good for stress and the mental part too,” he said.

Eric Hruschka teaches at Gateway Middle School and coaches track and cross country at Jackson High School in Mill Creek.

Hruschka has been sick more this year than he has in the past 10 to 12 years, but it’s probably because he has a new baby at home, he said.

In the past, he rarely got sick. One of his tricks to stay healthy: Grab a half gallon of orange juice on days he feels a cold coming on.

“I drink the whole half gallon before practice — no coffee, no tea,” he said. “I just start filling up my coffee mug with orange juice and drink it between classes.”

That overloads his system with fluids and Vitamin C, which is what doctors say to do, he said. He also goes to bed and gets up about the same time every day, he said, for consistency.

Monica Clemans-Remmen teaches first grade at Cedar Valley Community School in Lynnwood.

“I try to have balance in my life and not spend all my time and energy at school. That’s about all I do,” she said. She rarely gets sick. She takes some supplements and vitamins, but not to ward off sickness, she said.

“I think when we stress too much about our kids at school, your immune system goes down,” she said.

Her grandfather, who was a teacher for 30 years, taught her that.

“He said, ‘You can’t take it home with you,’” she said. “If I have balance, I’m good.”

Laurie Rabinashad drives school busses for the Shoreline School District and is president of Service Employees International Union Local 925, or SEIU.

It’s harder for bus drivers to stay healthy than it is for teachers, Rabinashad said. She’s had two colds since November.

“My family always says: ‘Why do you get so many colds?’,” she said with a laugh. “I said: ‘I’m in a big long tin can that’s sealed and steamy ‘cause all the kids are breathing.’ You can’t really open the windows in the bus.”

To try to stay healthy, she takes vitamins and Airborne.

Bryan Robbins is an assistant instructor in the automotive department at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood.

Robbins doesn’t get sick much these days, but when he does, he doesn’t let his students know it.

“The main thing is you get to school and never let the kids know you have anything wrong with you at all,” Robbins said. “If they sense weakness they go in for the kill.”

Robbins used to get sick all the time, but since he had his tonsils removed last year, he hasn’t been sick once. He also takes vitamins, has an “OK diet” and a “decent amount of exercise,” he said.

If he feels something coming on, he loads up on vitamins.

Pat Valle is co-president of the Shoreline Education Association, the teacher’s union. Until this year, she was a classroom teacher in the district.

The last few years, she’s usually managed to stay healthy, in and out of the classroom.

“I take a daily multi vitamin, and (at) the first signs of a sniffle or itch in the throat I start (to) dose up on Vitamin C and sometimes use Airborne,” she said.

She also uses a giant bottle of hand sanitizer.

When she taught, she used to shake each of her student’s hands as they entered the classroom, but stopped doing that in the winter.

“I tell the kids, ‘It’s not because I don’t like everyone, it’s the cold season,’” she said.

To reduce stress, Valle works out, takes a walk or otherwise fits in down time.

“I think the stress level also has to do with making you more susceptible,” she said.

Bill Murray teaches seventh grade and physical education at Kellogg Middle School in Shoreline.

Besides exercise and a yearly flu shot, Murray credits his good health in recent years to starting to use hand sanitizer. He keeps a bottle on his desk and uses it throughout the day. He used to get sick a lot more.

Allergy shots may play a role in his improved health.

“I think what I used to attribute to being colds might have been allergies,” he said.

If his peers are sick, he’ll start taking Airborne.

“I don’t know if that works or not,” he said with a laugh. “I do it ‘cause other people say it does!”

Gus Anaya teaches math and coaches wrestling at Jackson High School in Mill Creek.

“I stay pretty active, so I don’t get sick too often,” he said. “I’ve noticed while I’m at school I wash my hands because of the white boards we use, but I don’t practice anything — I think everything’s natural.”

The one time he tends to get sick is at the start of the school year, when kids first come in, he said.

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