MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new survey of Minnesota teachers finds that nearly 30% of educators are thinking about quitting or retiring due to the stress, workloads and health risks stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 10,000 teachers and administrators in Minnesota schools responded to the online survey, which was conducted by Education Minnesota in recent weeks. The majority of responders said they felt stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated while teaching during the pandemic. Multimodal instructors, who teach in-person lessons while simultaneous teaching students online, reported the greatest negative feelings.

“There’s already a teacher shortage in Minnesota,” said Denise Specht, president of the Education Minnesota, in a statement. “Our public schools won’t function if thousands of educators burn out and leave.”

According to the union, the Teachers Retirement Association of Minnesota reported that applications for retirement benefits increased by 35% in August and September 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Specht is calling for districts to adapt and adjust in light of how teachers are feeling.

“Districts need to remove all unnecessary tasks from educators’ plates, open negotiations on building-specific issues and generally abandon plans that ask a single teacher to manage half a class online and a half in-person at the same time,” she said. “That arrangement may have seemed like a good idea in August, but it’s not working in October and it may drive out hundreds of teachers by May.”

Gaoly Her is a high school math teacher. She teaches both hybrid students as well as students doing distance learning full-time. Her says she works 12 hour days and thought about taking a leave of absence over the workload and safety concerns.

“Pretty much we were running around like headless chickens,” Her said.

Teachers like Her doing both in-person and distance teaching at the same time reported the highest levels of stress in the survey. More than 70% are overwhelmed.

Only 12% of 9,700 educators across the state reported being happy.

“I feel fortunate my workload has only increased 30 to 40 percent,” St. Paul Public schools teacher Megan Hall said. “I think for a new teacher someone maybe who has had less experience in the technology we need to master I’d say easily double the work.”

Education Minnesota says adjusting schedules, workloads, and class sizes are just some of the changes that could help.

”We want to meet the needs of our students. and we want to give them the education they deserve but it gets to a point where it’s just impossible and it’s heartbreaking,” Hall said.

The survey was sent out to the 60,000 members of Education Minnesota on Sept. 23. As of Oct. 5, 9,723 educators had responded.

Kate Raddatz

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