Top teachers share their biggest challenges: burnout, student mental health and more.


Top teachers across the country say they’re facing major obstacles in the classroom — staff shortages, low wages and addressing student mental health — many stemming from shutdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, a recent ABC News survey found.

“I think teachers are just the fabric of our community,” Rebecca Peterson, the 2023 Teacher of the Year, told ABC. Earlier this year. “And I think we need to think of ways, big and small, that we can wrap our arms around teachers and remind them of how important they are to us as individuals and to us as communities.”

For this story, ABC News asked for responses from each state’s winner of the year.

Out of 55 teachers, 35 answered while the rest chose not to participate, the spokesperson of the organization said. Provincial Council of School OfficialsAdministering the State Teacher of the Year.

Issues highlighted by the team include exploring technological advances, teaching larger class sizes, and more.

The two most common answers were meeting students’ social, emotional, and academic needs and addressing staff shortages.

Even if it appears Traditional sparks in the room Like LGBTQ subject instruction, book bans, and the appropriateness of discussing critical race theory, teachers instead pointed to concerns about student mental health, low pay, and burnout.

Iowa Teacher of the Year Crystal Colbert described the latter as a “real” and “identifiable” crisis that deserves more attention.

Meet where the students are

Nine respondents said that the most important consideration is how to reach students who are struggling with a wide range of emotional challenges, whether they are Youth mental health crisis or damage caused by the outbreak.

Maine’s Matt Bernstein believes it’s time to step it up.

“Meeting the needs of students is a responsibility teachers are proud of, but it’s also challenging and requires a lot of work, energy and dedication,” Bernstein, a professional educational coach, said in the survey.

He and other educators emphasized how fostering relationships is a solution to the social isolation and distance learning created when schools were closed three years ago to limit the health risks of Covid-19.

“By building strong relationships and investing holistically in education, we have a better chance for each student to reach their full potential and contribute to the success of our community,” said Alabama fifth-grade teacher Reggie LeDon White.

Jermar Rowntree of Washington, D.C., a health and physical education teacher and 2023 national finalist, explained that children also need movement, which helps them manage their emotions.

“We teachers need support to help our students cope with the traumatic experiences they are coming to school with,” Rowntree wrote. But one place to start is to prepare what our new teachers can expect and how it will benefit our veteran teachers. Giving all teachers the tools to be effective includes our teachers. [professional] 2 times the age of the teacher.

Guam Elementary School teacher Stefan Camacho Concepcion said teachers should treat students not only in their studies, but in all aspects of life.

“Teachers should be able to prove that they are counselors, social workers and so on [children] They have everything they need to have a successful academic journey,” she wrote.

Recruiting and retaining teachers.

Such as professionals, educational departments, agencies and associations. 42 states and territories Report an ongoing shortage this school year.

Seven Teacher of the Year respondents — from rural Alaska to New Jersey — indicated they felt that tension.

“Shortages have always been normal, but the last few years the shortages have increased dramatically,” said Alaska first-grade teacher Harley Harvey, a 2023 national finalist. “This presents issues for many reasons. First, students do not have highly qualified teachers in their classrooms, which negatively affects the quality of teaching. Second, it creates an additional burden on older teachers and paraeducators, increasing their work stress. They are more likely to leave our schools,” she said. she added.

Ty White, of Arizona, who teaches high school chemistry, described the “huge” shortage in rural districts across the U.S., particularly for aspiring teachers.

“Because most university-led teaching programs are located in large cities, many teachers are unfamiliar with rural communities when they start,” White writes. “When these new teachers start looking for work and find rural job postings, they are often unattractive because salaries in states with local education agencies are not competitive with larger communities.”

In New Jersey, where state officials say special education, science and math teachers are in high demand, Christine Girtin called for better funding practices to help teachers earn more amid the shortage.

The National Education Association (NEA) says that when adjusted for inflation, teachers make thousands less than they did a decade ago. Average salary for classroom teachers has fallen 6.4% over the past decade, according to NEA data.

“Teachers shouldn’t be able to afford to do 2nd and 3rd jobs,” wrote Girtain, a high school science teacher and director of exact science research. “We need a major national investment to fund education and pay teachers a living wage.”

School safety

Two respondents included school safety in their answers to this survey. Still, fears of recent gun violence have other teachers on edge.

Melissa Collins Learning disabilities are this nation’s greatest educational challenge. But with the massacre at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, Collins hopes the massacre will push lawmakers to pass more gun reform.

“I don’t have a hand to hold a gun,” said Teacher of the Year. “Good Morning America.” In March. My hands are full as I carry our future leaders.

Respect the profession

The surveyed teachers said that respect is still a big challenge for public teachers.

This year’s National Teacher of the Year, Rebecca Peterson, plans to use the platform to share positive messages about education. But she recently told ABC News that many teachers still feel they are not valued as much as they should be.

“Every teacher who says that when I ask them to recruit and keep it [question]Right, they go back to honoring and appreciating the profession,” Peterson said last month before being honored with a crystal apple at the White House.

Most of the teachers in Peterson’s group agree: The lack of appreciation is not worth the job.

“In any other profession, professionals are treated with respect and dignity,” Kentucky sixth-grade English language arts teacher Mandy Perez wrote in an ABC News survey. “We deserve equal importance and value,” she wrote.

Tara Hughes believes that honoring education can even improve working conditions for teachers. “Increasing teaching professionalism and teacher retention leads to smaller class sizes, resulting in higher student engagement, less ability to meet academic and social-emotional needs, and less teacher burnout,” Hughes, who teaches pre-K in New Mexico, wrote.

Working with the community to honor and prioritize students’ needs is on the agenda for Missouri English teacher Christina Andrade Meli.

“Public education is a public good — we need to respect it and invest in it so our students can thrive,” Meli wrote, adding, “We all want our students to succeed, and we need to remember how to work together toward that goal.”


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