Students and parents are acknowledging the dedication and hard work of teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-11), but what are schools doing to attract and retain teachers?

Schools nationwide are struggling to find teachers and 42 percent of schools feel understaffed. That number jumps to 57 percent in high poverty regions. It’s clear something needs to be done to address the reasons why teachers are leaving or not entering the profession. The issues are constant – crowded classrooms, behavioral problems among students, and burnout that affects their mental and physical health.[1]

“Schools are not changing fast enough to address these challenges,” said Shellie Hanes, superintendent at Learn4Life, a network of 80+ public charter high schools that offer personalized learning and a flexible schedule. “With our model, teachers have 25-35 students, compared to upwards of 140 students in traditional high schools. And our turnover rate is low at just eight percent, which is far better than the average of 23 percent.”

Hanes points out that a majority of Learn4Life’s students have struggled at their previous high school and fell behind…some were bullied so they stopped going to class.

In Learn4Life’s trauma-resilient approach, it handles behavioral issues with restorative justice rather than as disciplinary cases. This includes offering life skills classes to teach conflict resolution, coping tactics and stress reduction to help heal students’ hearts so they can be receptive to learning.

“It’s essential to address the stress and anxiety that students are experiencing before they are ready to learn. That approach has a tremendous impact on the teachers when they have the tools to better deal with struggling students,” she said.

Learn4Life actively encourages self-care for its teachers, and provides them with resources and training to help themselves and their teams.

“My first teaching job was at a traditional public school,” said Jose Mendoza, math and EDL teacher at Learn4Life. “I didn’t see students being the priority like they are here. Parents and students were not part of the decision-making process. I sure wish I had known about this school when I first got my teaching credentials.”

Mendoza works with each student one-on-one or through small group instruction to help them accomplish their individual goals.

“I can utilize the best teaching method for each student’s style of learning and help them find their passion,” he said. “With a team of tutors, school counselors and social workers, we can help remove any obstacles that prevent a student from learning. These are the reasons I wanted to become a teacher.”


Written By:
Ann Abajian
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