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What The California Teacher Shortage Means For PLNU Students Entering Education

PLNU’s School of Education building. Photo courtesy of Grace Leonard.

State superintendent Tony Thurmond testified to support Senate Bill (SB) 765 on Wednesday to address the teacher shortage in California. There were 10,000 vacancies in California teaching positions over the 2021/2022 school year, and the bill focuses on making it easier for retired teachers to reenter the workforce and for new teachers to start, according to the California Department of Education News Release. SB765 proposes adding incentives for prospective teachers, like expanding Residency and California Grant Awards to apply to more students. 

“I feel like my first initial thought on this is that it is sad because teachers are the foundation of kids growing up and learning in general. Everyone needs teachers as both mentors and educators. The statistics are scary to think about going into the profession. It makes me wonder why so many people want to leave and have burnout?” said first-year cross-disciplinary studies major Bailey Abel.

In 2021, Christensen Institute conducted a survey of 1,074 educators; 78% reported that they had overwhelming amounts of stress from their jobs, and 52% said that their workload was unsustainable. They reported being short-staffed in all areas of the school, which led to long hours of work on personal time, and they felt they were being asked to sacrifice their personal health and mental well-being.

This workload and stress burden often drives teachers to burnout, said professor of education Kimberly Athans. 

“Teachers tend to want to do for others all the time. They need to learn to say no to things and say what can I feasibly do and still have some semblance of a life and have time for themselves to nurture themselves health-wise and mentally,” said Athans. 

In another survey by Joblist, it was suggested that low pay and the pandemic were the biggest reasons educators quit in the past year. Athans and Abel said that they saw salary as a large factor in the shortage. Athans added that the baby boom generation hit retirement age in the past three years and that mass retirement is another contributor to the volume of departing teachers. 

Despite the data surrounding the teacher shortage, Abel said, “While it is a little bit nerve-wracking, I know it is what I am called to do so I am not too worried. I don’t think I will face burnout since it isn’t just a job to me. There is always going to be a little bit of doubt as to whether or not it is the right decision but I know the Lord put it on my heart.” 

Some aspiring teachers like Abel continue to be hopeful for their futures as educators; however, according to Zippia, 44% of new teachers quit in the first five years of their careers.

First-year literature and English education major Caden Chadwick said this statistic doesn’t worry him. He said his passion for teaching comes from a dedication to the subject matter and to the students, and that burnout will not be that big of an issue. 

“The shortage does offer some comfort in the fact that I will be able to get a job out of college teaching,” said Chadwick. 

Athans also says that the future is looking up for new teachers. Bills like SB765 are being proposed across the nation as policymakers look to strengthen the education system and keep teachers employed. 

“We are finally starting to get the respect our profession deserves,” said Athans. 

Athans and the rest of the PLNU School of Education try to instill the heart of teaching in their students to help combat the burnout of new teachers. She said that it is vital to pay attention to the students, embrace differences in teaching and learning styles, seek solid and positive support systems, learn to say no, and make sure to balance work and life.

“Teaching is a calling,” said Athans. “Losing teachers isn’t necessarily a bad thing sometimes, because you don’t want people to stay in the profession if their heart isn’t in it. Teaching shouldn’t be a backup or short-term solution.”

In California, the focus on recruiting teachers has gone up with the implementation of bills like SB765, and with policymakers focused on the issue, more solutions are being proposed. Universities like PLNU are making sure that students understand the level of commitment the career requires, which cultivates students like Abel and Chadwick who are dedicated to the students and the job. With these solutions beginning to take place, Athans feels confident in the future. 

“I think that if prospective teachers feel that calling and it is what they want to do, they can make it happen and they will be successful and happy in their choice,” said Athans. “If we all come together to attempt to save our teachers who we currently have in the classroom doing a good job, and to recruit and train more, I think we can conquer this.” 

Written By: Grace Leonard