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Why teacher shortages are growing in New England

Paula Fortuna, a world literature teacher at the Center for Global Studies magnet program at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, CT helps one of her students in class
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Paula Fortuna, a world literature teacher at the Center for Global Studies magnet program at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, CT helps one of her students in class

One type of recent labor shortage has resulted in a new term. The US Department of Education defines Teacher Shortage Areas as subjects or grade levels within any state in which there is an inadequate supply of teachers. These TSAs are growing in New England.

The region has what are considered some of the most and least attractive working conditions for teachers. New Hampshire was ranked the worst state in which to teach last year by the business and personal finance website WalletHub. A recent report by the firm Zippia Career rated Connecticut the best state for teachers this year and ranked Massachusetts the 4th best. Still, those states can’t find enough teachers or support staff.

“The stress is really the number one reason that we have. The teachers are reporting leaving the field prior to retirement and the rates of stress are increasing across all teachers and increasing at faster rates for elementary school teachers,” Lisa Sanetti, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, told And Another Thing.

Sanetti said new concerns and requirements prompted by COVID-19 have exacerbated stresses that were already growing among teachers.

“Expectations for what teachers do during their day and accomplish during their day has increased, and all of those wind up being very stressful. We also know that there are a lot of stressors depending on the population that you're working with or the kids who are in your classroom, who are coming in every day with their own stressors that teachers very much take on themselves trying to help those students, and that those things compound the already work-related stressors that they have,” she said.

A shortage of substitute teachers also concerns educators in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“We get larger class sizes because teachers are taking kids from other classes where there are no substitutes available,” Connecticut Association of School Superintendents Executive Director Fran Rabinowitz told And Another Thing.

“There is a substitute shortage. And what that's doing is it's impacting everybody in all kinds of ways, from not being able to take a sick day to having to work around schedules if they're getting boosters and they're getting sick,” Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy told And Another Thing.

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