“No way”: Teachers call it quits as pandemic magnifies challenges in classrooms

LANCASTER, S.C. — The pandemic has now affected students across three school years and with cases on the rise, an end appears to be uncertainly far off. The continued stress of the pandemic is causing some teachers to leave the profession, leading to shortages. Channel 9 Genevieve Curtis spoke with two former teachers who had enough.

Many teachers are prepping their classes for the upcoming school year but not for 20-year-veteran teacher Dawne Foster.

“It was a very difficult, long thought-out process,” Foster said.

In April, Foster resigned from a career she loved.

She was teaching in Lancaster in South Carolina, a state where the governor said masks are no longer required in schools.

[South Carolina says its schools can’t follow CDC mask advice]

She taught second grade virtually last school year but knew she’d have to return in person this fall.

“I just had an inkling about the delta variant kicking and in the second grade, there be no virtual option,” Foster said.

The pandemic has caused additional stress and burnout for teachers, and recent surveys by the National Association of Educators found that nearly 30% are considering leaving the profession early because of the pandemic.

Rebecca Craig taught in Union County for 23 years but took the option for early retirement in February.

“If I would’ve gone 25 (years), I would’ve gotten more money,” Craig said. “But things have changed so much, there’s just no way I could go another two years.”

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Craig said she loved her school community, but that politics surrounding education made the culture toxic.

“It was more the climate of education, itself, and the way the teachers were seen and treated,” Craig said. “And the board of education in 2020, when they proceeded to go with in-person graduation against the governor’s order.”

Channel 9 asked local districts for attrition numbers.

Many officials said they don’t have the data yet for those who left after the past school year.

Craig and Foster said they would have continued their careers in teaching if it wasn’t for the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“I worry for some or my really good friends who are still in teaching,” Craig said.

[Coronavirus: CDC recommends masks be worn in schools regardless of vaccination status]

Foster and Craig said that competitive wages and respect for educators would go a long way to help keep teachers from leaving the classroom as the country faces a possible teacher shortage.

“Honestly, what probably tipped me over, just the narrative of our nation and the way that we look at teachers,” Foster said. “And I just feel there’s a lack of general respect.”