Good teachers leaving districts due to pandemic

The efforts districts are making to retain them
Posted at 9:51 PM, Jun 02, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — Love for students. That's what most teachers are likely to point to as the main factor that keeps them in the classrooms.

It's certainly not for money.

So now couple low pay and long hours with a pandemic school year and you can understand why more teachers feel taxed.

An Edweek survey reveals 84 percent of teachers said teaching is more stressful than it was before the COVID-19 closures.

What about here in Southern Arizona?

"Teachers are burnt out. It's been a rough year for many folks. Everyone's really just burnt out," said Sunnyside Superintendent Steve Holmes.

It's a similar scenario in TUSD.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo describes the workload and burden teachers experienced while working in-person and remote.

"I watched them run back and forth from group to group and then after to hurry up and sit down at the computer and engage the kids with zoom and then run back out from the computer to help kids that need help with math. My heart breaks," he said.

So it's not surprising more teachers may leave their classrooms and their students behind.

Another EdWeek survey reveals more teachers are thinking about leaving now than before the pandemic.

54 percent now compared to 34 percent pre-pandemic.

Holmes said, "It's definitely a trend. It's increased from the previous year."

What's normal?

Federal data has long revealed about 8 percent of teachers leave the profession every year -- mainly younger teachers.

But this time it may be more of the experienced teachers and staff.

"Kind of at that retirement age," Holmes explained. "I'm seeing a lot more of those employees saying, I'm done, you know, I'm ready to retire. I'm really gone which is sad because they really add a large benefit of knowledge base."

He gave statistics starting with last year. "We had 22 people retire and we're up to 35. (59% increase). So if you think about that, just from a percentage standpoint, that's a pretty significant increase of folks ready to retire."

Trujillo said he doesn't yet know how many teachers in the district will be retiring.

So the two superintendents are working to prevent the rising count of exiting educators.

TUSD gave out $500 retention bonuses this year.

Trujillo said, "And then also a $1200 stipend that will be payable shortly before fall break in acknowledgment of COVID era -- a pandemic era service."

Holmes is turning to a new salary schedule to entice veteran teachers, who would have to take a pay cut for moving to the district.

"In other words," he explained, "if I'm in year 26. I go to here 26 and that's what I should be making, versus these really complicated formulas of how pay is given to teachers."

Classrooms need educators at the helm. So knowing more teachers are considering leaving the profession, the districts are working more closely with the colleges -- Pima College and the U-of-A -- to get teachers on deck when staff drops off.

Holmes said, "We have a pathways program that we have like a group of our own program with the U-of-A. This is our third cohort. We have about 16 new teachers that came out of that program."

TUSD relies of the UofA's ICAT program.

Trujillo said, "We had over a hundred student teachers, even in this pandemic environment working with us and doing their placements inside of TUSD schools."

Districts have already been facing a teacher shortage, so more efforts will be made to find and entice new educators into the field.

"As we crawl out of the pandemic and back into normal times," said Trujillo, "we're going to be more aggressive with our outreach to try to create more of those pathways to teacher certification."