Teaching Profession

5 Popular Teacher Stories You May Have Missed in 2022

By Madeline Will — December 15, 2022 4 min read
LéAnn Cassidy, 57, sits in her classroom at Memorial Middle School in Middlebury, Conn. The 2018 Connecticut History Teacher of the Year and 2018 finalist for Connecticut Teacher of the Year, has been a classroom teacher for 34 years, but is considering retiring early.
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Teachers were in the news a lot in 2022, with teacher shortages and burnout making headlines at all major news sites throughout the year.

That was the case at Education Week, too. Some of the most popular stories among our readers dove even deeper into rising job dissatisfaction and its possible causes, including low salaries and a lack of support. Several of the most-read stories are conversations with educators, signaling a real desire among readers to hear directly from teachers on the ground.

From teacher pay rankings to conversations about professional boundaries, here are five of the most popular stories about the teaching profession among EdWeek readers this year.

1. A new book urges administrators to better support new teachers

A new book published this year—The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers—told the story of one teacher’s journey into the classroom as a Black queer man, detailing all the challenges, joys, and lessons learned along the way. The author, Patrick Harris, also interviewed other teachers about their own reasons for staying in the classroom and their vision for the future of education.

In an interview with EdWeek, Harris spoke about how administrators need to see new teachers “from a strengths-based perspective” and give them a seat at the table instead of assuming they need more experience before weighing in on school policy. Hearing directly from teachers, including those early in their career, is critical, he said.

“The more that we get to tell our stories, the more that we will tell our stories as raw and as real as we possibly can, [then] the more community that we can build and the more organizing that we can do to truly create the education system that we want to see,” Harris said.

2. One educator prompted a debate about professional boundaries in teaching

Jherine Wilkerson, an 8th grade English/language arts teacher in Peachtree City, Ga., went viral after penning an opinion essay for Education Week titled, “I Don’t Have to Love My Students to Be a Good Teacher.” She wrote that there’s an expectation for teachers to sacrifice their personal time and energy for the good of their students. But Wilkerson argued that teaching is a job like any other, and she shouldn’t have to forego professional boundaries to do good work.

Wilkerson later spoke to EdWeek about the response to her controversial essay and why she thinks it’s a problem for society to consider teaching a “work of the heart” rather than a profession.

“When you consider something a calling, I think it really diminishes the work that you put into it,” she said.

3. The lack of Black teachers in the workforce dates back to the aftermath of ‘Brown v. Board’

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, determined that segregation of schools by race was unconstitutional. But it also caused the dismissal, demotion, or forced resignation of many experienced, highly credentialed Black educators who staffed Black-only schools.

In May, Leslie Fenwick, the dean emerita and a professor at the Howard University School of Education, published a book about the displacement of Black educators, titled Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: The Untold Story of Black Principal and Teacher Leadership. She spoke to EdWeek about what really happened after Brown, the lasting implications on the teacher workforce, and the obstacles that are still preventing Black people from becoming teachers in 2022.

4. State rankings of teacher salaries show that rising inflation is chipping away at progress

The National Education Association released its annual report on teacher salaries by state this spring and estimated that the national average teacher salary for the 2021-22 school year was $66,397—a 1.7 percent increase from the previous year. But when adjusted for inflation, the average teacher salary actually decreased by an estimated 3.9 percent over the last decade.

In other words, teachers were making $2,179 less, on average, than they did 10 years ago, when the salaries were adjusted for inflation.

New York, Massachusetts, and California topped the list with the highest salaries, while West Virginia, South Dakota, and Mississippi were at the bottom.

5. Teachers are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs

A national survey of teachers painted a picture of a disillusioned, exhausted workforce. Teachers’ job satisfaction levels appear to have hit an all-time low this year: Just a little more than half of teachers said they’re satisfied with their jobs, and only 12 percent said they’re “very satisfied” with their jobs, down from 39 percent in 2012.

More than half of teachers said they likely wouldn’t advise their younger self to pursue a career in teaching, according to the survey, which was conducted in January and February by the EdWeek Research Center and commissioned by the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College.

“I’ve never seen the number of people break down as I have this year,” said LéAnn Cassidy, a veteran middle school history teacher in Connecticut, in April. “I think the pandemic has dampened that joy [of teaching], and people are trying to find it again.”

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