SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota teacher says she had no idea her protest sign promoting wearing masks in school would gain nationwide attention.
Lizzie Hansen, a first-year special education teacher, appeared on CNN this week urging schools to make masks mandatory. Last month, Hansen displayed a sign in the shape of a tombstone, to show how the coronavirus could threaten her own life.
Lizzie Hansen had plenty of butterflies before going on the air for her live interview with CNN.
“I looked down on my Apple watch right before we started and said my heart rate was 187, so I was extremely nervous, but it was a lot easier than it looks,” Hansen said.
Hansen, and other teachers have taken part in demonstrations across South Dakota calling for everyone to wear masks during school. Hansen says she is slightly immune-compromised, so exposure to the coronavirus could have serious health consequences for her.
“It just hit me that, I had a whole breakdown, that I could die this school year, it’s a real possibility and so that inspired the sign,” Hansen said.
At first, Hansen’s tombstone sign was intended to be a lighthearted call for mask-wearing.
“And it kind of initially started out as a joke, like okay, well, this could be funny, but it could be very serious and it really took a serious route pretty quickly,” Hansen said.
Hansen says she’s received mostly positive feedback from her appearance before a national audience.
“Mostly, it’s been a lot of people from my hometown, a lot of people from South Dakota saying thank you for speaking up, thank you for using your voice, thank you for being brave,” Hansen said.
Hansen says she hopes her CNN appearance will embolden others to speak out about making classrooms as safe as possible for teachers and their students.
“No matter what platform, I’m going to be the best teacher they’ve ever had,” Hansen said.
Hansen did not want us to identify which school district she works for since she is not speaking on behalf of the district.
School districts across South Dakota have come up with plans to keep people safe. To see what your district is doing, click on our Returning to Learn Survey.