Utah teachers are leaving their jobs faster than ever before, which is causing some in the Dixie State University education department to worry.
More than 50 percent of public school teachers who started their careers in 2008 were no longer teaching in 2015, according to a study by the Utah Education Policy Center at the University of Utah.
The number is even higher among younger teachers. Within the eight years included in the study, 73 percent of teachers who were 25 or younger dropped out of their jobs. For teachers ages 26-30, 54 percent of them left their jobs.
Brenda Sabey, the dean of DSU’s college of education, said these numbers are concerning, especially for education students at DSU who are looking to start their careers after graduation in Utah. Although the numbers revealed in the Utah study are much higher than the national averages, Sabey said the reasons why teachers are leaving their jobs in Utah are most likely consistent with the trends nationwide.
“One of the reasons lots of [teachers] leave is they can’t make enough money,” Sabey said. “It’s hard to be a teacher on the low salary.”
Sabey said it’s “disturbing” that a teacher with six children can be below the poverty line because of the low salaries teachers are paid.
Maura Larkin, a sophomore primary education major from St. George, said the high turnover rates among teachers in Utah does concern her a little bit, but she’s confident she’ll be able to find a job after graduation.
“For me, I really want to be a teacher at this point,” Larkin said. “There are steps available to help students find jobs after graduation, like getting endorsements or going on to get a master’s degree.”
Some education students at DSU aren’t willing to work outside of Utah or even Washington County, Sabey said. She said many students who are from Washington County want to work locally, which narrows their opportunities for teaching jobs.
Sabey said she knew an education graduate who was working in a grocery store because she didn’t want to look for jobs outside the Washington County School District.
“That’s a little disheartening,” Sabey said. “I know there are places where she probably could have (gotten a job), but it wasn’t worth it for her to move out of the area.”
Channing Condie, a sophomore primary education major from Layton, said although she’d prefer to stay in Utah for her teaching career post-graduation, she’s open to moving out of the state.
“I always think there will be a need for teachers somewhere because there will always be children,” Condie said. “California and Nevada are the top two places it seems Utah teachers go to if they can’t get a job here.”
While Sabey said the DSU education department can’t prepare students completely for the difficulty in finding and keeping teaching jobs in Utah, there are some things she said her department is doing to make things a little easier for students. Sabey said the DSU education department hosts a “support group” for education graduates to talk about their concerns in the first few years of their careers. Sabey said she also emphasizes the importance of practicum courses, where education students visit classrooms in the community.
“We have our students out in the schools the moment they’re accepted into the program,” Sabey said. “Probably one of the best things we can do to make sure our students have a clear picture of what it means to be a teacher before they graduate.”