Idaho’s teachers are tired, but they’re sticking it out

Idaho’s teachers are facing unprecedented challenges these days, but they’re not quitting — yet.

EdNews recently surveyed over 500 teachers across Idaho to reveal that more than 90% are sticking it out. Teachers remain far more likely to stay in their job than a typical worker, even after a global pandemic, politics and technology have added more stress to an already challenging job.

Still, many report feeling underpaid, disrespected, overworked and unsatisfied — even as they’re being asked to do more. 

Teachers today must keep students safe from school shootings, catch them up academically in COVID-19’s wake and deal with a burst of mental health issues pushing youth suicide rates to record numbers. 

So what’s keeping them around? 

We asked, and learned a lot. Some are only staying until they find a way out. Others feel trapped by what they see as a lack of options. A love of teaching overshadows the mounting challenges for others. 

EdNews’ weeklong series, “Teachers: in their own words,” dives into the state of the profession in Idaho, and where it goes from here. 

Here’s an overview of the series, and what to watch for this week: 

Survey says: Nearly all of Idaho’s teachers are staying, but almost half are unsatisfied

Earlier this year, 511 K-12 teachers from every grade level and 64 school district and charter schools responded to an unscientific EdNews survey aimed at gauging the state of the teaching profession in Idaho. 

We asked teachers a range of questions, from their overall satisfaction with their jobs to how the profession has changed over the years. 

Key takeaways: 

  • 93% said they were returning to the classroom this school year.
  • 48% said they are “very” or “slightly” unsatisfied with their jobs. 
  • 90% said their feelings about the profession have changed since they started teaching.

And the list of concerns is long. The following percentages of survey respondents classified a range of issues as either “serious” or “very serious:”   

  • Lack of respect: 82%. 
  • Unfilled jobs leading to more work for remaining staff: 79%.
  • Students’ mental health: 79%.
  • Student behavioral issues: 76%.
  • Unpaid hours outside of contract time: 74%.
  • Stress from introduced or passed legislation: 71%.
  • Burnout: 69%.
  • Stress from the pandemic: 63%. 
  • Lack of planning time: 61%.
  • Student misuse of cell phones or technology: 54%.
  • Low pay: 52%.

The 23-question survey wasn’t scientific. But it did document the experiences of hundreds of Idaho teachers on a broader scale. We announced on Aug. 10 our plans to write about our findings. We shared the survey on our social media platforms and via emails and text messages. The survey remained open for two weeks. 

We contacted over a dozen respondents for followup interviews via contact information they had the option of providing. We’ll share our findings from those follow-up interviews Monday. 

Click here for the full survey results. 

Teachers are sticking it out, but challenges persist

Most teachers return to the classroom despite a range of morale issues, but many schools are still struggling to fill positions. 

A separate EdNews survey of 60 Idaho K-12 administrators revealed concentrated staffing challenges in districts large and small across Idaho. Most schools are able to fill positions, but leaders have grown more reliant on hiring teachers with alternative authorizations. And long-running struggles tied to hard-to-fill positions, such as special education, persist. 

These realities could jeopardize fragile teacher-retention efforts in districts across the state. 

Our series, at a glance: 


Idaho’s teachers are tired, but they’re sticking it out.


Idaho teachers open up about classroom realities. 


Schools are losing teachers faster than they can replace them. 


Administrators explain the concentrated challenges of hiring teachers and other staffers. 

Idaho Education News reporter Carly Flandro and data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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