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Eau Claire, WI

Eau Claire School District Experiences Large Number of Retiring Teachers

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Walter Rhein
Walter Rhein
Image by Walter Rhein

As the 20-21 school year comes to a close, many local schools are seeing a greater than normal number of teachers opt for retirement. Some suggest that these retirements are a consequence of stress caused by the pandemic.

The last school year was extremely challenging with in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning options available. Even with the summer of 2020 to prepare, the local school district was forced to adopt a completely new educational model.

Teachers found themselves having to learn new technologies and adopt alternate methods of evaluation. Communication was radically altered and many teachers found they had to reinvent their entire concept of how information is conveyed to students.

All of this was in addition to the substantial amount of preparation time that is already a component of a teacher’s job description. Lesson plans, materials, tests, and worksheets are often planned in advance to a great extent. All teachers know that once the school year begins, if you fall behind, it’s very difficult to catch up.

Technology is great when it works, but the 20-21 school year brought with it an unprecedented number of problems. For the first time, teachers found that their ability to perform their duties was dependent on their students’ quality of internet, access to technology, and technical competence.

In many ways, the 20-21 school year was a work in progress. Looking back, it’s easy to see that the jump to a virtual model was the educational objective of the year.

Many parents expressed concern throughout the year that their children might be falling behind. That fear created a baseline of stress that was higher than normal and was also shared by the teachers.

In a normal school year, it’s common for teachers to feel concern for students that seem to be struggling. In 20-21, that stress remained but was magnified by the fact that teachers had limited access to observe their students, anticipate problems, and help when needed.

When a teacher became aware of a problem, technical obstacles and other conflicts made it difficult to schedule the face time necessary to provide productive assistance. As everyone knows, virtual face time is a poor substitute for in person interaction.

As our community emerges from the pandemic, it has become clear that some of the elements of virtual learning are likely to remain a part of our educational system going forward. However, after the challenges of the 20-21 school year, many teachers who are nearing retirement find themselves disinclined to return to a radically altered work environment.

The larger than normal number of retirements provides an exciting hiring opportunity for new college graduates and teachers from other districts who are looking to make a change. Jobs will be posted on the Wisconsin Education Career Access Network.

The 20-21 was a tremendous learning opportunity both for the local school district and for the community as a whole. The emphasis on virtual learning opportunities was an unprecedented switch that brought with it a tremendous amount of additional stress.

All of the teachers in the Eau Claire school district did a wonderful job of meeting the challenge and providing the best education possible under difficult circumstances. As we move forward, it’s likely that more and more teaching positions will soon be occupied by new graduates that have experience with virtual learning both as a teacher and as a student.