Retaining, recruiting teachers in southeast Mo. impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 4:56 PM CDT
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ESSEX, Mo. (KFVS) - A Heartland superintendent called the pandemic the last straw for some struggling teachers, which is one reason some are choosing not to return to the classroom next year.

”Just been a stress on teachers this year like no other,” said Frank Killian, Richland School District’s superintendent.

After 30 years in education, Killian said that stress is causing teachers to retire early or leave the field altogether.

“So far we have been lucky enough that our teachers are coming back. But they are stressed to a point that if they had to do this a second year in a row, we may lose some here.”

“It’s been stressful, but it’s definitely been doable,” said Elizabeth Hay, a fifth grade teacher at Richland.

First year teacher Elizabeth Hay said she’s taking this year day-by-day.

“We work together as a team a lot, so that’s made it a lot easier working together and figuring things out along the way.”

But Killian said it’s harder these days to find new teachers like Hay.

“When we survey our kids here asking which ones plan on going into education, they all say no. And we ask why, and it’s just because of the money,” he said. “And you add COVID on top of it, there’s just not enough people going into education. Not enough people to fill the spots.”

Still, both educators find a reason to stay on the tough days.

“We try to make this more of a family than a school, and that has helped us tremendously here,” said Killian.

“I love my kids so much. I could never think about doing another job,” said Hay.

Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is following the pandemic’s impact on the education field, but DESE leaders said the state already faced retention and recruiting issues before the pandemic.

Cape Girardeau Public School District, Saxony Lutheran, and Sikeston R-6 School District leaders said they are not seeing an abnormal amount of teachers quitting or retiring at the end of this school year.

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