What makes teachers stay?Last spring, I was asked by my school district to go to Ohio on a recruiting trip for new teachers. Our district sent two two-person teams through Ohio and Michigan for a five-day recruiting trip stopping at different universities each day. We were looking for teachers to fDec 01, 2015
What makes teachers stay?
Last spring, I was asked by my school district to go to Ohio on a recruiting trip for new teachers. Our district sent two two-person teams through Ohio and Michigan for a five-day recruiting trip stopping at different universities each day. We were looking for teachers to fill vacancies ranging from elementary art to high school physics and biology. These states, along with others, have had more teachers than positions throughout the last decade.
The Buckeye Bonanza recruiting trip should have been an Arizona administrator’s dream, but it wasn’t. There were hundreds and hundreds of districts recruiting and in many cases recruiters were as plentiful as recruits. There were at least 10 Arizona districts at each of our stops, and what we heard at each stop was the same - that last year there were double the number of fresh-faced, soon to be college grads applying for jobs and that some of the colleges were cutting back on their college of education programs because of the lack of interest. On top of that, there were numerous districts from across the country offering large bonuses and salaries that we could not match. Although I believe that Arizona, specifically my district, does an excellent job with our students and is an excellent place to work, what makes us any different from the other states looking for teachers? It was an eye-opening trip. Fortunately, we were able to secure some great young teachers, but what does the fact that Arizona doesn’t produce enough teachers from in-state universities say about the state of education in our state?
I am a native Arizonan. I knew going into college I wanted to serve the young people of my state. I spent time researching the schools in the area I lived; I felt connected. Shortly after beginning my teaching career in the Valley, I moved to Lake Havasu City, where I have educated students for the past 13 years. My children go to school here. I am vested in my community—it is the same story for many of us. We talk with one another often about what makes us stay. Why haven’t the low wages, lack of respect and the difficult job driven us away? It is the connection we have to one another, to our students, and to the families. Next year, we are looking to add a teaching profession’s career path to the CTE program in my school. I am excited about the possibility of students graduating Lake Havasu High School and coming back to teach after they graduate college. I hope we can work with the local community college and universities that serve the area to develop a program that gets alumni back into our schools.
I understand why teachers have left my community for other opportunities. I wish them well. The last 10 years have not been easy, and I can only hope that the next 10 years are better. But, I think districts spend too much time on exit surveys and looking at why teachers are leaving, rather than really focusing on why teachers are staying. According to the ADE’s Recruitment and Retention Task Force, 24 percent of teachers are eligible to retire in the next three years and 24 percent of Arizona teachers only teach here for one year. The cost of teacher turnover is huge, both for districts and students themselves.
Because of my experience recruiting last spring, and my focus as a building administrator on ensuring that every student has an excellent teacher, I am asking you to let me know why you stay. Our voices matter and we must inform the communities we live in about what we really want as teachers. I will be conducting research this winter and presenting my research this summer about what it is that districts can do to encourage more teachers to stay and support Arizona students the way they need to be. If you would like to help me in this task of collecting teacher feedback about retention, please take just a few minutes to answer my survey - http://goo.gl/forms/jCAIUcF9he
Thank you for loving Arizona’s kids as much as I do.
Jaime Festa-Daigle is a National Board Certified Teacher and Arizona Master Teacher. She is an Assistant Principal at Lake Havasu High School.