Teachers fight burnout with new ways to adapt

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Teaching isn't the job it used to be. Funding cuts, bigger classes, and greater demands appear to be taking their toll. Too many teachers say they are burned out. That's what they told us in an exclusive Eyewitness News poll.

You can sense the frustration in one teacher's comments: "I have 260+ students. I can't provide enough individual attention for the students reading below grade level, which is most of them."

Today we look at one local school system getting credit for increasing student achievement, and keeping teachers excited about their jobs.

Tonta Shank started teaching 26 years ago and hasn't stopped loving it.

"You get the hug, you get the 'thank you Mrs Shank. I appreciate what you did for me.' It is the reward of the children."

Unfortunately an alarming number of teachers feel very differently. Almost one in four say they are burned out. One third of the 4,500 educators answering our exclusive Eyewitness News opinion poll said if they had it to do all over again, they wouldn't be teachers.

"I am not surprised," said teacher Heather Cooksey, "because things have changed," quickly and dramatically in just the seven years since Heather Cooksey started out.

For decades, a teacher's world was pretty predictable, but now it is changing. Budget problems, changes from the Statehouse and higher expectations have made their career an entirely different planet. Less job security, more accountability, greater expectations and fewer resources are taking their toll.

Yet at Liberty Park Elementary teachers insist they are adapting. "We work smarter, not harder," said Shank.

Several years ago, Warren Township started giving teachers more responsibility for improving their schools. They collaborate, decide which students need additional help, design specific lessons, and look for results. ISTEP+ scores are up, and teachers say so is their morale and job satisfaction.

Students, teachers and administrators are part of the picture. In our survey, a lot of teachers say where are the parents? One teacher says, "I have so many students who lack parent support and/or have behaviors that are out of control."

A concerning number of teachers can't get their students to do their homework.

Note: This is the second part in a five-part series that aired on Sunrise.

See the results of the poll.

Read part one here. 

See part 
two here.

Read part three on parental involvement.

Read part four on teachers paying for classroom supplies out of pocket.