'My house was completely gone. A homeless teacher teaching homeless students is really … impossible'
Kerri Brooks, special education teacher, Phoenix Elementary School
The week of Sept. 8, I thought the main thing I was going to worry about was distance learning with students who can’t access computers independently. Then the Almeda fire happened.
My students are dealing with blindness, deafness, autism. We are teaching them life skills and academics, addressing social emotional issues. A lot of them don’t have access to a computer.
I have to work hard at recharging my batteries because I live my job. Everything goes with me. I’m constantly thinking about my students.
On Sept. 8, I was setting up a Google classroom in my class. I was aware there was a fire in Ashland but didn’t know the winds were pushing it toward Talent.
My principal told me I needed to go home, and it took me 45 minutes to make an 8-minute drive. By the time I got home the fire was two blocks from my house. I grabbed my dog, Charlie, and some documents and started driving.
My son, Keith, 5, was staying with my sister in Medford. With all the smoke and flames and traffic it took me three hours to move one mile. I finally got to my son about 9 p.m.I didn’t sleep that night. The next morning I was able to get into Talent.
By the time I reached my house it was just devastation …. I can’t explain.
My house was completely gone. Across the street from me everything is still standing. I know the firefighters did what they could, but my home was not saved.
Later I was able to sift through some things. There wasn’t much left to find. I dug all the way down to the concrete and didn’t find my grandmother’s bracelet.
But I did find an ornament – a metal snowflake. It’s going to be on my Christmas tree for the rest of my life.
OSBA is telling personal stories of hope and perseverance from the state’s three hardest-hit districts: Phoenix-Talent, McKenzie and Santiam Canyon. These “Rising from the Ashes” stories, told in images and words, will show where support is needed most to help Oregon students and their families rebuild. OSBA has established a Wildfire Resources page that includes links to donate to the hardest-hit communities: Phoenix-Talent; McKenzie; and Santiam Canyon.