ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- 55% of educators polled in a survey from the National Education Association (NEA) said they are planning on retiring from teaching earlier than they originally planned because of COVID-19, up from 37% in August. This could cause further teacher shortages in the future, putting even more stress on educators.

“Educators by nature put 110% of their effort into helping their students succeed,” said New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) President, Andy Pallotta. “The added stress of the pandemic has left too many exhausted and has strained existing support systems.”

90% of educators said feeling burnt out was a serious problem and 67% said it was a very serious problem in the NEA survey. 91% said pandemic-related stress was a serious problem for educators. It comes down to appreciation for educators along with action from government leaders and school districts, according to Pallotta.

“What they need right now is respect for the incredible work they continue to do two years into this crisis, cooperation and patience as they advocate for the needs of students, and a commitment from district and state leaders to hiring more teachers and support staff who can help them address the needs of all students,” he said.

NYSUT is aware fewer people are choosing teaching as a profession. Since 2009 the number of people enrolled in the state’s teacher education programs has declined 50.4%, according to its Take a Look at Teaching initiative website. The website highlights actions that could help put more teachers back into the workforce and tackle issues like lack of diversity.

One of those actions is giving high schoolers a chance to explore a teaching career through teaching clubs. NYSUT said they are supporting 30 of these programs in schools statewide with the help of NEA funding. The Lansingburgh and Troy School Districts both currently have “Take a Look at Teaching” clubs.

“The latest numbers send a clear message that we have to rebuild the teacher pipeline through grow-your-own, residency and other innovative programs before the already existing teacher shortage becomes an insurmountable challenge,” Pallotta said.

NYSUT is also advocating for other actions through its Future Foward campaign that will assist educators through things like:

  • minimum mental health staffing levels
  • reduction of class sizes
  • establishing universal pre-k statewide
  • making sure educators have support staff like psychologists, counselors, and social workers
  • addressing student issues like food insecurity