Chicago teacher battling cancer refuses to stop in-person classes: ‘I miss my students’

A Chicago schoolteacher showed up to his empty classroom, despite battling cancer and a union vote to not return to in-person learning amid surging COVID-19 cases.

Joseph Ocol told CBS Chicago he believes he was the only teacher at his school Wednesday when he showed up to plan and organize while the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools duke it out over in-person learning. 

The vote by the teacher’s group went into effect on Wednesday, closing school doors after 73% of the union voted to halt in-person instruction.

A sign taped to the front door of Pulaski International School of Chicago reads, School Closed after Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, said it would cancel classes since the teachers’ union voted in favor of a return to remote learning, in Chicago, Jan. 5, 2022.  REUTERS/Jim Vondruska (REUTERS/Jim Vondruska)

 “The city has failed to deliver a whole number of basic demands for what we need in schools, has failed to provide adequate staffing, adequate cleaning, adequate testing,” said union president Jesse Sharkey. 

The CTU, lead by Jesse Sharkey, closed down the entire school system over COVID fears despite Public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady saying it was no worse than the flu and that kids are perfectly safe.   

“I joined the Chicago public schools as a teacher first and foremost and I believe my role should be inside the classroom with my students,” Joseph Ocol, a Chicago teacher and chess coach, told “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “I did not join CPS to be a union member.”

“Of course, I agree that there has to be safety measures, but it should be done in a sweeping way – because there are schools that don’t have COVID,” Ocol told CBS Chicago. “I miss my students. It’s just that this is a different situation, and I feel sad about this.”

‘Despite my battling cancer, I still have a role to play right now. I just want to make my life relevant somehow. The thought that I can still be of service to my students and I can touch their lives and make a difference in their lives.’

He slammed the CTU for using pupils as political pawns in their fight with Lori Lightfoot, who they did not back.   

‘I believe that there are ways to fight City Hall. You don’t dangle the plight of the kids in the middle of the fight just to seek your demands.

‘There are other ways. I have nothing against the union. But I have something against people using the union as a tool for political gain.’




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