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COVID-19 impact: Faced with more challenges, many Utah teachers resign

By Tania Dean and Deanie Wimmer, KSL TV | Posted - Nov. 19, 2020 at 11:07 a.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY – Teachers have a lot on their plates this year, and for some, it's to the point of spilling over. KSL looked into claims that teachers are leaving their jobs in droves and discovered that's true in some districts.

After spending a full day with one teacher, we saw first-hand the extra challenges teachers are facing during the pandemic.

A day in the life

Anne Easton starts her day at 5:30 a.m., before the crack of dawn. After she gets ready and eats a quick breakfast, she's out the door and gets to school well before many of us are even out of bed.

Easton teaches French at Cyprus High School in Magna where she's been for the past 14 years. But this year has been different from all the rest.

"Have you ever had a year like this?" asked KSL's Deanie Wimmer.

"Never. Nothing like this ever before," said Easton.

Easton teaches six different French classes this year, with a total of 166 students. Of those, 104 come to learn in-person and the other 62 learn online – about one-third of all her students.

While both in-person and online students are learning basically the same things, for teachers like Easton, it's a lot more work and time.

"Teaching online kids and teaching in-person classes at the same time, that part of it is really difficult," said Easton. "One assignment that I did that probably would have taken the kids 15 to 20 minutes to fill out, it took me 45 minutes to figure out how to get it on the computer in a way that they could do it."

Anne Easton teaches six different French classes this year, with a total of 166 students. (Photo: KSL TV)

When she's not face-to-face with students, she's grading, creating lesson plans, learning new programs, making teaching videos, uploading those videos and assignments, having one-on-one Zoom meetings with students, responding to emails from 166 students and their parents and more.

Easton usually stays at the school until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. That's a 10- to 11-hour workday on a regular basis and she's still not getting everything done.

"There aren't enough hours in the day at this point to do everything I used to do in the past," said Easton.

Anne Easton’s days tend to last 10-11 hours. (Photo: KSL TV)

"The way you're feeling, is it sustainable?" asked Wimmer.

"It's really not. We can't keep doing the things we're doing and spending the time we are," said Easton. "I'm not sure what needs to give, because we don't want to give up on anything that the kids need, but we do need to take better care of ourselves, as teachers."

'Untenable situation'

Officials with the Utah Education Association agreed. In a recent news release, they said, "…the juggling of multiple and continually changing teaching modalities, combined with the stress of a school environment that puts personal and family health at risk, has created an untenable situation for ALL Utah educators."

"My heart goes out to the teachers that are doing this and have young kids just because I can't imagine what they're going through," Easton said through tears.

KSL checked with several of the larger school districts along the Wasatch Front to find out how many teachers they've lost since school started.

In the first term, the number of teachers who have resigned or retired:

  • Alpine: Seven resigned
  • Canyons: Four resigned
  • Davis: Did not respond
  • Granite: 43 resigned, seven retired
  • Jordan: 32 resigned, four retired
  • Salt Lake City: five resigned or retired

Many of the districts reported the number of resignations or retirements was on par with previous years, but the Granite School District, where Easton works, admitted their numbers were high.

"Anecdotally, it does appear that we are higher than we normally are, which is to be expected in the midst of a pandemic," said Ben Horsley, spokesperson for Granite School District.

Teachers don't have to disclose why they're leaving, but Horsley said they anticipated some turnover because of all the current challenges.

"There's still some outlying concerns about people's safety and being able to do the job and the rigors of the job," he said. "The job has gotten obviously more difficult."

"During the summer I honestly thought about not coming back," said Easton. "Just because I didn't feel safe and I wasn't sure how it was going to work. So that was a difficult thing. That was really difficult."

Easton did return to the classroom and doesn't regret it. But sometimes, when her day at school is finally over, her night is just beginning.

Anne Easton’s days tend to last 10-11 hours. (Photo: KSL TV)

While she might not admit it, Easton's family said she's up late almost every night, finishing everything she didn't get to at school because her students are constantly on her mind.

"I just know what it means to her to teach kids in person and she would miss it," said Nile Easton, Anne's husband. "To say it's time to quit, not my wife. She wouldn't do it."

"After hearing all of this, a lot of people would ask you, why do you do this?" asked Wimmer.

"That's a really good question," answered Easton. "It's for the kids. It's for my students."

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Tania Dean
Deanie Wimmer

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