Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

New UT program aims to increase teacher retention

Catherine Li

Rowdy teenage students filled the chairs of Katie Holbrook’s early 2000s classroom when she began teaching. When she struggled to get the teenagers to pay attention and take notes, Holbrook’s mentor guided her through common issues generations of teachers face. 

Now, 20 years later, the support system has weakened and teachers regularly talk about leaving Austin High School, she said.

“(Me and my colleagues) worry that so many people are leaving the profession,” Holbrook said. “We talk about why that is and what we think needs to change so we can keep people around, and how we can support new people so they stay.”

Holbrook said she noticed her colleagues leaving at an increasingly rapid rate, leaving many students without teachers. She said the school spread out students to different classrooms, which increases the responsibilities and workload of the entire staff. 

The University announced THRIVE, a program aiming to retain teachers through increased mentorship, resources and training, on Jan. 31 to battle this issue. The program partnered with multiple schools and organizations across Texas to spread the impacts through the entire state, said THRIVE director for Texas education LeAnne Hernandez. 

“It’s a great career and you get to make a difference every day,” Hernandez said. “All the things about education and changing the world for children are really true, but it’s also a really challenging time to be a teacher.”

Almost 14% of teachers quit in the 2022-23 school year, according to a report by the Texas Education Agency. Hernandez attributes this to the lack of support and guidance they received. She said while Texas requires schools to assign new teachers a mentor, it is usually another teacher with an equally busy schedule, which cuts down on their time to grow together. 

THRIVE ensures teachers spend time learning from their mentors by leaving their own classes early to work with each other in a real teaching environment rather than quick meetings between classes. Hernandez said they meet at least once a week to help plan lessons, model-teach, observe and provide feedback.

“The mentor and the mentee need time together during the work day when students are around to observe each other’s practice and to practice teaching together,” Hernandez said. “That just does not happen right now.” 

THRIVE built off Texas Education START, which aimed to increase teacher retention caused by COVID-19 through mentorship opportunities. AISD teachers mentored through START saw a 90% retention rate, compared to the unmentored teacher’s rate of 76%, according to THRIVE’s press release

“(New teachers) are coming to the field because they feel called to work with kids,” Hernandez said. “They have a heart for students and for learning, but they’re not well-prepared. How do we help them feel successful and build their skills on the job so that they stay?”  

Elena Ngyuen, president of Teachers of Tomorrow, said her dream of becoming a teacher started at a young age when she recognized the privilege of receiving education. Still, she said she often contemplates changing her elementary education major to one with more certainty. 

Ngyuen said this issue remains a constant topic in her classes and discussions with her peers. She said she noticed students already left the field before even starting. 

“On top of the pay, on top of the poor treatment, poor regulations, poor support, the shortage on top of that has made the process really strenuous,” Ngyuen said. “But you realize your passion overshadows (the) negatives of it, and you want to be a part of the change.”

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