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Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, conducted a 2008 study regarding the germiest jobs in America – and the worst offender was not a sanitation worker, a doctor, or a bank teller – though they all ranked in the top 10. The germiest job in America is that of a teacher. In fact, our work space is 6-times more germ-filled, and our computer keyboards 27-times dirtier than accountants, who took second in this study.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal followed up this study by declaring, “Afraid of Germs? Don’t Even Think About Becoming a Teacher.” Why? Because the Petri Dish is real. Especially for new teachers.


That said here are some tips to keep teachers and students healthy during the school year:

1. Clean the computer keyboard EVERYDAY – after reading this study, we should all start or end our day with the dirtiest place the teacher interacts with most. This is especially true if a teacher brings his/her laptop home.

2. Teach students to wash their hands properly, and then lead by example – this might sound ridiculous, but researchers at Michigan State University estimates that 95% of Americans don’t wash their hands properly. The biggest problem is we’re not washing our hands long enough (it should be 20 seconds, or long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday Song” twice). For men, only half of us use soap. The number tanks when we consider students’ hygiene. So our nurse decided to do something and showed this video. Remember, we’re just a year removed from the Ebola outbreak fear.

3. Use hand sanitizer as bathroom passes – if the hand sanitizer is in students’ hands as they use the restroom, the odds of spreading germs decreases dramatically. Get a template for hand sanitizer passes from Stephanie Van Horn’s blog, Third Grade Thoughts.

4. Have the students wipe the desks at least once a week – Dr. Gerba stated that the dirtiest places students interact with on a daily basis is their desktop. When a teacher considers all the classes of students who sit in a desk at a secondary setting, we probably have upwards of 8 or 9 students at that seat in any given day. Odds are one of them is sick. At the primary level, students’ germs can manifest themselves and spread just as easily.

5. Invest in a bottle of Lysol – man, the amount of shared things that more than 150 hands touch in a week is too much for one case of Clorox wipes. That’s why teachers should invest in a bottle of Lysol. Spray the door handle when there are plenty of students out. Give the box of colored pencils a spritz. Spray some in the air after a class that has half the students missing.

6. Get a flu shot – the Center for Disease Control estimates that those of us who receive a flu shot will boost immunization to flu strains by 71%, and it’s higher for teachers who are 50-years-old and older. If teachers told students their study guides had similar effect and they didn’t use it to study for their tests, they’d shake their head when they fail.

7. Get exercise, outside if possible – Keeping one’s self fit and active is crucially important, so put down that gradebook and go for a jog. Additionally, Vitamin D is one of the greatest additions to the immune system, and teachers and students can acquire this best by exposing themselves to the sun for at least 15 minutes a day. This gets more difficult for our educators in Alaska’s winter, so supplements are almost as effective. provides ways to ways to acquire Vitamin D.

8. Stop touching your face – Women’s Health observed 249 people for a few weeks and determined that they touch germ-infested communal places 3 times an hour and touched their faces – especially the nose, mouth, and eyes – even more frequently. I shudder to think about how much more exposure and touching of the face the average teacher has. Ew.

9. Stay home when sick – I know, I know… making sub plans is more of a chore than being there. But if we’re going to have healthy classrooms, we need to model the behavior.

10. Drink loads of water – the health teacher down the hallway will tell all students to drink 8 cups of water a day (64 oz.), but the amount of water needed increases as the body fights off a cold. Help irrigate! Drink more.

11. Get your Z’s – teachers should be sleeping at least 7.5 hours on a school night. has aggregated a plethora of cold studies and come to the conclusion that the single best way to battle the common cold is more sleep. Period.

12. Consult the family doctor if symptoms persist a week or more – then you might have more than a cold and need to see someone with a stethoscope.

Bonus: Gentlemen, if you sport a beard as I do, there are some sincere health benefits to growing out your whiskers, which includes acting as a filter against pollen and cold viruses. However, make sure to wash it multiple times a day – or it’ll be dirtier than a toilet seat.

Mr. Jake Miller is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, a 2017 NEA Global...

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