Year Without a Teacher, Two Without the Classroom

How COVID-19 and pre-existing concerns are leading to “The Great Resignation” of teachers.


“Nothing prepares you for this. We had no plan for this, and now the plan keeps changing.” Cathay Bullington, an elementary school teacher in Indiana, The Guardian.


It is no secret that teachers are burned out, demoralized, and fatigued. Pre-existing issues, such as lack of resources, low pay, and safety concerns, contributed to the overall increase in teacher resignation and retirement since 2019. Those stats are staggering. Michigan experienced a 44% increase in teacher vacancies in 2020. Florida, a 67% increase in 2021. And in 2022, 55% of educators say they are ready to leave the profession sooner than expected. 


The pandemic of the last two years amplified that stress and burnout. Leaving educators feeling the burdensome effects of COVID19 and scrambling to find a level of stability within their occupation. Hayley Spira-Bauer hosts the Learning Can’t Wait podcast, a podcast dedicated to supporting schools, students and teachers. This week’s episode, The Great Resignation: Teacher Edition, takes on a lens of hope as it dives in with experts, Dr. Mia Mulrennan, Henry Wellington, and Leigh Borda. This panel discusses the pathway to improvement during “The Great Resignation” of teachers, and how to get there. 


Dr. Mia Mulrennan is a psychologist and founding faculty member at Georgetown’s ‘Masters of Hospitality Global Leadership Program’. Dr. Mia Mulrennan has made a career linking ethics to employee experience. Her work addresses the deeper connections of human-centered growth strategy.


Henry Wellington is the Founder & CEO of Upbeat (Education), a data analytics company that evaluates and improves teacher retention. Wellington’s work helps schools address the issues within their organization and offers tools to improve them in the here and now. Leigh Borda is a leader in ‘New Teacher’ cultivation. In her role at Teach for America, she focused on recruitment and educator development.


These professionals saw a critical need and are finding solutions rather than just looking at the problems. It’s important to be realistic about the struggles facing teachers in today’s climate. Casual Fridays and happy hours are not equivalent to a living wage and ample funding. That is why it’s imperative to start building a sustainable framework for the future of teachers.


Educators shouldn’t have to fight for their health rights through two years of mask mandates or lack thereof. Nor their safety through 71 school shootings in the last two years and that’s during a pandemic. The responsibility of redefining our students’ learning structure should never have fallen to our teachers alone. While it’s important not to dwell on toxic positivity, it’s equally important not to fall into despair. There are actions we can take. Get involved in your local school board and district elections, attend town halls, and volunteer in your communities and schools. We need to “make substantive changes to reduce stress and improve morale in schools” and prioritize the health and well-being of our teachers before we lose them.