Is US Education Flying Too Close to The Sun?

Teachers are a valuable resource to society. Without educators, who will teach surgeons cutting techniques? Who will help children develop critical thinking skills, and who will mold the entrepreneurs of tomorrow? There’s only so much time and energy even the best parents in the world can dedicate to their children and their educational upbringing, which is where teachers come in. Teachers have a huge societal value, but this value isn’t reflected in their pay in the USA.  As a result of this, teachers have been leaving in huge numbers and seeking employment in other fields, especially as the new year rolled in.

“Teachers are burned out and tired,” said Ms. Ainsbury, a new Chemistry teacher here at Apopka. “Many have lost their love for being in the classroom because of so many demands from administration. With compensation being low or staying the same…and yes, fear of  COVID has chased a lot of teachers away.” There is only so much a person can handle when the stress of both the demands in their daily life and work collide. Put a pandemic on top of that and it’s a recipe for burnout and re-evaluation.

Senior Alex Brown said that having a teacher quit mid-year has negatively affected both them and their classmates. They weren’t being adequately taught and that resulted in them not being able to understand the course material. Occurrences like these are commonplace all across the country on different levels as teachers leave the profession in droves. The question of how students will perform on tests has to come into question considering that some of them do not have a stable teacher. When speaking with Mr. Heinz on the matter, he said that there has not been a major decrease in PMA test scores between classes with substitute teachers and those with full-time teachers; he credits this upkeep to the lesson planners and literary coach that has provided substitutes with lesson plans. Even though he expressed that improved scores would be preferred, he stated that once teachers who had taken a leave of absence for various reasons (ex. paternity leave and personal situations) return, an increase in scores should follow. 

To cope with the demand for new teachers at Apopka High, a hiring event was held the previous quarter. Some of the teachers from these events have started as early as this quarter to help supply the demand. “Education has been my career path from year 1 after graduating from UF,” said Geometry teacher Ms. Dang when asked what lead her towards a career in teaching. What is interesting is that despite being a recent graduate, she is quite familiar with teaching, having both experiences as an adjunct professor to senior math lab instructor. Another new highly talented hire would be Ms. Ainsbury. She’s the new chemistry teacher with a lot of experience as a chemist for some of the USA’s leading companies. “I have always wanted to be a teacher,” was Ms. Ainsbury’s reply when asked what lead her towards a career in education. “After an 18-year career as a Chemist at several Fortune 500 companies, I did not get the fulfillment that teaching gives me.”

Even though the state of Florida and the USA is experiencing a teacher shortage, it is obvious that the incoming teachers, at least at Apopka High, are of quality and are deeply experienced in their field. What is clear, is that like the majority of Americans, teachers do not get paid enough compared to how much is expected of them. However, the issue around pay is something that is bigger than Apopka, and even the state. It is a Federal problem that elected officials need to address and fix.