Why are so many teachers leaving the profession? And how do we fix it?

Apple on a teacher's desk
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(WWJ) It's Teacher Appreciation Week. And although it was happening before, the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly increased the number of teachers looking for a career change.

So, how can the teacher brain drain be stopped? WWJ's Zach Clark explores the answer in new episode of The Daily J podcast.

While the job market remains ultra-competitive, there's concern about the ability to train and retain enough K-12 school teachers.

Dr. Cynthia Carver, an associate professor at Oakland University's School for Education and Human Services, said there's an ongoing effort to facilitate getting more teachers into teacher preparation programs, to help alleviate the tremendous teacher shortage that Metro Detroit-area schools are facing.

"I get calls all the time from local administrators saying, 'Do you have a middle school math teacher?' 'Do you have an elementary teacher?' 'Can we release this teacher early from student teaching because we really want them in the classroom'," Carver said. "And we're doing the best we can to get really qualified candidates through our teacher prep program. But we're gonna need some policies and support to make that happen."

The teacher shortage isn't unique to Michigan; it's a problem across the nation.

A study from the National Education Association found that 55% of educators are thinking about leaving the profession early — another side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Something else to think about: The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 600,000 fewer teachers today than there were in 2020.

One possible solution to the problem, of course: increase their salaries.

"There's a lot of lip service paid to the idea that money can't fix everything. However... you could try it," suggested Doug Bernardin, who recently retired after 30 years as a teacher at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor.

And while you're at it, maybe give the trash talk a rest.

"It's hard to feel appreciated when you're constantly being told that the system in which you operate is failing, that you're failing the system, that you're failing kids," Bernardin said.

To be employed in Michigan as a teacher, you must be at least 18 years of age, have a bachelor's degree and a valid teaching certificate. Interested in becoming a teacher in Michigan? Get information about requirements and prep at this link.