Omaha-metro educator on teacher burnout: ‘All I’m feeling is crushing defeat’

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 10:29 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Educator burnout is reaching a breaking point with nearly one in three planning to leave the profession at the end of the school year, according to a new survey by the Nebraska State Education Association.

“Right now, all I’m feeling is crushing defeat,” said Aarron Schurevich, an Omaha metro-area teacher. “I think it’s been something that’s been essentially coming for a little while for me, but everything that’s come with the pandemic made it imminently more clear.”

From months of remote learning to enforcing COVID-19 protocols, the pandemic is still piling on.

“You look at what’s happening now where some districts can’t even get their things together enough to provide a mask mandate,” said Shurevich, noting that this kind of in-action has been tough on teachers, having feared for his own health.

“That just kind of puts into perspective what my life is worth to people and if it’s not worth anything then I don’t know why I’m sacrificing my time, my health: mental, physical, everything really,” said Schurevich, pointing to school shootings as another stressor.

“I doubt there are too many other jobs where people are going in and going ‘alright what am I going to pick up in this room and throw or swing if somebody comes in with a gun.”

“Not only are they leaving,” said Jenni Benson, President NSEA. “We haven’t even filled the positions that we needed to fill in order to move forward 100% staffed.”

It’s not just a shortage of staff but substitutes as well. Seventy-four percent of teachers reported having covered a class.

“Bottom line is when you don’t have enough staff to meet the needs of the students, the students suffer,” said Benson. “The staff then you know being able to provide the learning that’s necessary is, um, is very difficult.”

Covering classes is something Schurevich can attest to.

“If I have to step into a social studies class that I’m not certified to teach, but I just have to go in there and make sure the students crack the books and read them,” he said. “It sounds easy, but it’s all a matter of what you’re losing too.”

Teachers are losing time for everything from prepping classes to addressing student problems.

“To either punted down to the next day, but who knows if I’m going to have that time because I might have to cover again, which means it’s homework for me,” said Schurevich. “Which means my eight or nine-hour day turned into potentially a 12-hour day.”

While the thought of walking away is difficult, he has started exploring new job opportunities.

“I don’t know if I have the wherewithal or reserve to keep doing it and I know I’m not alone,” said Schurevich.

To help in the short term, specifically with mental health concerns, NSEA leaders are expanding care options for educators.

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