New programs, incentives aim to recruit and retain educators as ‘burned out’ teachers pursue other professions

A Bay Area university is looking at creative ways to recruit teachers as many leave the profession to pursue other careers.  

Deena Porter has left the school system but not the classroom. She found a new use for her teaching skills by tutoring kids of all ages.

Porter is now an owner of a Sylvan Learning Center. She said she's able to give individual attention to students which could sometimes be a challenge in her prior career.

"It was frustrating for me to not be able to reach all of them," Porter explained. "Most people would know trying to individualize in a classroom setting it's not conducive for that. It's very difficult. It's not that it can't be done to a certain degree, but it's very difficult for a teacher."

Devin Siebold made a career shift too. He went from teacher to full-time comedian.

He created a podcast, videos and he's been part of the ‘Bored Teachers’ comedy tour to bring humor and awareness about the struggles of educators.

"We did these shows and everyone one of them said man I just needed to laugh. I just needed to know that I wasn't alone," shared Siebold.

His perspective hit home for teachers like Anne.

READ: Florida still needs 9,000 teachers before students return

"He made it real. He pointed out just the idiosyncrasies and just kind of the craziness that teachers are expected to deal with," she stated.

"I have a lot of followers and I get a lot of messages from other people and they say this is the last year, they can't take it anymore," said Siebold.

Dr. Adrianne Wilson, an associate professor in the department of education at the University of Tampa, said she believes the COVID-19 pandemic had a tremendous impact on the burnout educators are experiencing. She said the issues facing teachers were only magnified during the pandemic. 

"There's also stressors with student achievement and making sure that even in the midst of COVID and all the challenges it brought teachers were still needing to keep up with those academic expectations," said Dr. Wilson.

"A lot of times a lot of decisions are made by people who are not teachers and it's like forcing a square peg into a round hole," Anne explained.

READ: Hillsborough schools faces staffing crisis ahead of new school year

Anne said even her smartwatch picked up on her stress.

"It just would go off constantly telling me to breathe. I was getting headaches every day. It was just so much. It was the demands of what we had to do," she stated. 

Sonya Battle started The Teacher's Resource Organization. It provides support to educators across the country because of similar stories like Anne's.

"I hear a lot from teachers that they are depleted and they are exhausted which is a part of burnout for teachers. They feel that they have no support. That they are not respected and they cannot take the profession anymore. While they love their students, they have nothing left, so they walk away. They walk out," said Battle.

She's also hoping to bring attention to the problem with an effort called "Stop the Walkout".

"I decided to do it because teachers’ voices are not being heard and we're in a crisis with teachers leaving our classroom," said Battle.

Another issue causing teachers to leave is low pay.

READ: Haines City High School reaches full capacity, no longer enrolling new students

"It's hard to get people interested in those careers when pay is low but with budgets. They just don't have enough people," said Anne.

"Pay is an act of value and so I think one thing that could help long term is really looking at how to increase salary for our teachers," stated Dr. Wilson.

The Florida Department of Education said it's trying to do that by raising the average starting salary for a teacher from $40,000 to at least $47,000 a year. Those teaching at the state's most vulnerable schools can receive up to an additional $15,000. The department said there are also opportunities for educators to increase their leadership skills. 

Those programs include the Florida Teacher Lead Network, which is an opportunity for district teachers of the year to receive coaching and development and also the High Impact Teacher Corps, a yearlong professional learning opportunity for educators at some of Florida's most vulnerable schools. Educators would receive specialized support to develop their leadership skills.

"I know that there are a lot of teacher prep programs across the state that are looking at innovative ways to recruit and attract students to the teaching profession. I know that school districts are also looking at ways to retain teachers as well," Dr. Wilson explained. 

READ: Hillsborough teachers, staff trained in mental health awareness ahead of new school year

Anne said she is now using her teaching skills in a corporate position and she doesn't see those alerts from her watch anymore. 

"Since I left the classroom and started working this new job, it honestly never goes off anymore," said Anne.

Siebold may no longer be a teacher but he continues to use his platform to advocate for them. 

"Because I watch the teachers going through it and I see what they're going through and I try to speak out about it, try to make it more aware of what we're going through and try to inspire change to help them", said Siebold.

"Maybe looking at how to support teachers in terms of self-care so that the burnout that they are experiencing can be mitigated. Maybe support in dealing with students dealing with mental health challenges. There will always be a need for teachers despite the challenges that the profession may be facing", said Dr. Wilson.

Dr. Wilson said the University of Tampa is working on some innovative ways to recruit teachers. One is a professional education major. Students who are majoring in other areas can take education classes to get their teaching credentials.


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