Teacher departure creates a void

I picked up a recent agenda for a school board meeting and searched the list of resignations. There, I see it. My children’s music teacher is leaving. I’m pretty sure this teacher was in her first year at the school, and my kids loved her. She was creative, fun and inventive.

If I’m right – and I’m pretty sure I am – she was the second one-year-only music teacher in a row. My son liked the one before her, too. Our school doesn’t have much turnover, so even one departure stands out.

I’m sure a wonderful replacement will be found. But I also know my kids will miss their former instructor.

In schools across the country, good teachers – ones kids (and parents) get attached to – sometimes last a short while. They find other opportunities at other schools. A spouse gets transferred because of changes in the local economy (that’s happened to us, too). Or they just leave the field.

A few years ago I followed four first-year teachers as they put their college degrees to the test in front of classrooms of students. When the year was done, three of them continued teaching. A fourth told me in confidence that he was seeking other employment. The pay was too little and the time commitment required, too great.

I wonder where they are today.

During my years as a reporter, I’ve gotten to know many experienced teachers dedicated to their field, no matter the storms brewing in the distance. And I’ve met dozens of first-year teachers, passionate teachers, ready to plant themselves into their field – and one school – for a very long time.

Whether by design – several years ago thousands of Arizona teachers got pink slips – or circumstance, it’s unclear yet if they’ll get a chance to do that.

Enrollment changes leading to a need for fewer teachers. Frozen salaries, sometimes for years. Furloughs.

To be honest, it’s not much different than what private businesses have gone through recently, including the newspaper field.

But there’s just something about a teacher. We remember the ones who impacted our lives the greatest. We anxiously await those class lists to find out who our children will spend the majority of their waking hours with.

We’re saddened when we hear they’re leaving.

This post originally appeared on the East Valley Tribune's EVMOMS blog.


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