According to recent data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, teachers are leaving the classroom at rates comparable to previous years.
The data shows that North Carolina's teacher attrition rate was 7.78 percent during the 2021-2022 school year, down about half a percentage point from the 2020-2021 school year and only slightly higher than the attrition rate in 2019-2020.
Attrition rate refers to the reduction in the number of employees at the state or local education level. The average attrition rate across the state between 2016 and 2021 was 8.18 percent.
Thomas Tomberlin is the senior director of educator preparation, licensure and performance at NCDPI. During February's State Board of Education meeting, Tomberlin said there was a 46 percent increase in teacher vacancies on the first day of school and about a 58 percent increase in teacher vacancies on the 40th day of school relative to the previous year.
The difference might not represent an actual change in vacancy rates, but a change in reporting methodology to more accurately reflect the state of the teaching profession, he said.
Milca Sanchez-Colop, a third-grade teacher at Fuquay-Varina Elementary School, said the hardest part of being a teacher is needing expertise in multiple fields, such as school psychology and social-emotional behavior.
“I think that sometimes we just take on a little more than we have to, and we feel the silent pressure that we just put on ourselves," she said.
Despite the joys, Sanchez-Colop said she left teaching for a year — initially not planning to return.
“The student body needed a lot of help emotionally and academically,” she said. “It can be taxing because I was constantly thinking, ‘What do I need to do to help them move quicker and not fall so far behind?’”