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'It breaks you' | With teacher burnout taking toll, Georgia Dept. of Education report looks to provide answers

11Alive's Christie Diez spoke to the 13-year teaching veteran who championed the new report.

ATLANTA — The last couple of years have been hard on teachers, and now they're starting to feel the effects of "teacher burnout."

It has become such a problem that the Georgia Department of Education assembled a task force to look into the reasons leading to burnout and what to do about it.

11Alive's Christie Diez spoke with the teacher who led the charge, Sherry Goldman.

Read the full "Voices in the Classroom" Department of Education report on burnout

She's been in the classroom for 13 years, teaching elementary school ESL, English as a Second Language. She's adored by her students and has won "Teacher of the Year" but even she has fallen victim to burnout.

"It was alarming for me and to feel like as a teacher that try as I may I didn't know if I was reaching my students," she said. "There were days where I didn't know if I even taught them a thing, and that broke my heart."

Over time, she said, "it breaks you."

State Superintendent Richard Woods asked her to lead a task force of educators across the state to explore what's leading to burnout and how to fix it.

"It was a very, very open conversation - it was no-holds-barred," Goldman said. "Everything that they could think of that was contributing to teacher burnout."

Through those conversations, they came up with five main themes to address:

  • Assessment
  • Preserving & protecting time
  • Pressures/unrealistic expectations
  • Teacher voice and professional growth
  • Mental health & wellness

Then they worked to come up with specific solutions for each area - things such as preserving teacher planning time, compensating teachers who cover classes or take on extra work, and including teachers in the decision-making process.

Some of those can be implemented immediately. Others will take more time and money.

"No matter how much you believe in something, if you feel like you're not respected there's a certain point at which you're gonna walk away," Goldman said.

A third of teachers said it was highly unlikely they would stay in the education system in the next five years - creating an impending problem, as well.

"That's why we need to jump on this as quickly as we possibly can," Goldman said.

The report is 35 pages long and contains specific recommendations for addressing the burnout problem. 

Goldman presented it to the State Board of Education on Thursday and hopes that districts across Georgia will use it as a blueprint to focus on the issues specific to their schools.

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