By KRISTEN UPPERCUE & MARY ALVAREZ & 100 DAYS IN APPALACHIA
Jessica Salfia has had a busy nine months.
Salfia is an English teacher at Spring Mills High School, one of the largest in West Virginia, situated in the state’s Eastern Panhandle. She’s one of the organizing members and president of the West Virginia chapter of the National Council of Teachers of English and, most recently, added the title of co-editor to her list of accomplishments for her work on “55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teachers’ Strike.”
Published in July, the book is a collection of personal accounts and essays by those involved in the state’s 2018 work stoppage. Salfia had led the movement at Spring Mills.
“What people need to know is that no teacher wanted to leave their classroom. That’s the very last thing that any teacher wanted to do,” Salfia said. “ Our hand was forced by legislators who refused to listen to the teachers’ story and hear the teachers’ struggle.”
But, eventually, they heard. The movement that started in West Virginia caught fire and teachers in three additional states– Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona– also walked out of their classrooms. The nation watched as teachers’ filled the hallways of the state Capitols and called on their lawmakers to do more for public education and educators alike.
West Virginia teachers’ wanted stability in the pricing of their health insurance. Instead, they got a pay raise and the promise of a healthcare solution during the 2019 legislative session.
But Salfia said they won’t forget that promise.