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'We're not okay': Pandemic stressors force growing number of educators to leave jobs

Education Minnesota says the teacher's union can't remember a time when so many teachers left their jobs during the year — and we're not even into December yet.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn — The impact of the latest COVID-19 surge in Minnesota goes far beyond the sick.

Burnout and stress associated with the pandemic and the political fights over public health measures have caused many educators to leave their jobs.

A spokesperson for Education Minnesota says no one with the teacher's union can remember a time when so many teachers left their jobs during the year — and we're not even to December yet.

And for each teacher who has resigned, there are many, many more who are trying to stick it out right now.

When Tom Rademacher finally returned to his classroom in February of 2021, he welcomed his nervous feelings about the unknown because the promise of teaching his 8th-grade class in-person is what kept him going during the pandemic.

"I knew that I wasn't ready to leave the classroom yet," Rademacher told KARE11 at the time. "I had to keep reminding myself this last year wasn't teaching in a classroom."

But a few months into this school year, Rademacher is among many teachers who responded to KARE11 on Facebook to explain why the return to the classroom has brought unexpected stress and struggles.

Tom Rademacher

"It's weird... in every possible way, this school year is better than last year. We get to be in the classroom with kids, aren't speaking to silent screens, there's 1000% more laughter and learning and goodness.

And yet... it is SO much harder. The cumulative wear of the last few years, the struggle of coming back after all that time away, and certainly national discussions that put our work and our students at risk... I honestly have no idea how/if I'll make it through the year, and I have never felt that way."

Sondra Radke Koster

"Very, very true. This is the hardest year I've ever done in 21 years of teaching. It's too much."

Part of the struggle, the educators say, is reaching students who are dealing with their own, unprecedented stress.

Deb Johnson

"It’s really tough! I’m in an elementary building. The students have lost coping skills on how to handle hard things. Kindergartners have not had the typical early childhood experiences that teach them how to navigate school. The lack of student skills, paired daily staffing shortages do not make for an easy experience. The teachers in buildings are doing EVERYTHING they can, but there just isn’t enough support to go around."

Susie Spika

"As a school social worker I can tell you that the social and emotional needs are off the chart! Plus the fact that their are no teacher subs out there, and not near enough paras or para subs. There is so much catching up needed and no time to get it all done. It is really a sad state of affairs!"

And it's not just evident in classrooms.

Christina Chris Roeser

"I took a job with our newly expanded and accredited Online School. It has been so very difficult. I have taken on many extra roles outside of and on top of my teaching duties just to make sure that this program is successful, as have many of my colleagues. We are tired, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even with being online, the challenges of ensuring students needs are being met is daunting. The kids are overwhelmed, the parents are overwhelmed, and school staff is overwhelmed. I send a note of encouragement to our staff (administration included), just to let them know that I appreciate them and will do what I can to help them be successful as well.

Non-educators, check on your educator friends and family. We are struggling."

Stephanie Moses

"We're not okay"

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