Some teachers choosing to leave after tough school year

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DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Education Association (CEA) warn of a potential crisis for Colorado schools after it said 40% of teachers responded in a survey that they are considering leaving the profession after this school year.

FOX31 and Channel 2 decided to reach out to teachers to hear their reaction to the survey. We caught up with one teacher in the Jefferson County School District, who stated she is retiring this year after a series of challenges due to the pandemic. She originally planned to retire in two years. 

Anjie Julseth teaches ninth and 10th grade math. She said this school year she’s had to get creative to keep her students involved especially with a lot of the learning virtually. 

“After 27 years I feel like I am a brand new teacher,” Julseth said. 

She has started traveling across Colorado and creating videos for her students called “Where in Colorado is your math teacher?”

But she said, despite the fun videos, hosting a large class via zoom is difficult. 

“My colleagues and I worked all summer teaching ourselves and teaching each other,” Julseth said. 

She said the stress and extra work from teaching this year has taken a toll on her mental and physical health. “All of us teachers are working hard and we still get comments from the superintendent’s office implying we aren’t doing work or teaching or that kids are falling behind and that’s not true,” Julseth said. 

One teacher working in District 11 in Colorado Springs, who wanted to remain anonymous stated: 
“This year has been a whirlwind to say the least. One year ago, almost to the date, our world was turned upside down. I didn’t even get a chance to wish my babies farewell.

“A few weeks after the closure, we were asked to get our things out of the building. The halls felt eerily. I still felt the spirits that ones walked the halls and I cried. Since that day, I have done my best to be my best for my kids, but this ever changing environment makes it impossible.

“One moment teachers are heroes and the next we a cry babies. One moment we are honored the next we are insulted and EXPECTED to risk our lives. The saddest part is we all knew opening was not going to work. Still the dance of open closed began. This made things even worse for our kids which made me feel even more inadequate as an educator.

“I was born to be an educator. I knew that as a child! I cannot imagine doing anything else! Yet, I am truly debating leaving education all because unfortunately education is NOT about the kids. I have found myself improvising and compromising my values and going against what I know is best for my students and my colleagues. This year has truly opened my eyes and I don’t like what I see,” the Colorado Springs teacher said.

Another anonymous teacher working in Jeffco Public Schools stated: “I will be retiring at the end of this school year. I had wanted to retire at the end of next year, but several events took place this past year that pushed my retirement up a year. 

“At the beginning of this year, the district made it clear that our salaries would be frozen next year. Doing the math, that means my retirement would be the same at the end of next year as it is this year. 

“I got the message from the district that teachers are a burden, and that our concerns are not important. This was conveyed through the budget process at the beginning of the year as well as the violation of the MOU the union negotiated. My workload increased significantly this year as well. 

“Our vaccines have been an afterthought. Our contract is going to be completely renegotiated, and I do not feel that our well-being as employees is paramount. Over-burdened teachers without support or financial compensation are not a good combination,” the Jeffco teacher said.

The CEA represents more than 39,000 teachers throughout Colorado. It said it conducted a survey in Dec. 2020 and asked teachers if they were considering leaving the profession in the near future.

The CEA said more than 5,000 teachers responded. Of those who responded, the CEA said 40% said they were considering leaving after this school year.

The CEA said teachers are frustrated by the lack of resources and underfunding. It said teachers listed unrealistic workload, potentially unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and low pay as reasons for quitting after this school year.

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