Idaho’s 2023 Teacher of the Year and proud Idaho Education Association member, Karen Lauritzen, spent Tuesday at the Statehouse presenting to and answering questions from lawmakers on how the State of Idaho can keep experienced educators in the classroom.
Lauritzen, a veteran educator who teaches fourth grade at Treaty Rock Elementary and serves as co-president of the Post Falls Education Association, was selected as Teacher of the Year by the Idaho Department of Education last fall. Each year, Idaho’s Teacher of the Year makes a presentation to lawmakers about at topic related to the teaching profession and public education.
This year, Lauritzen focused on why so many educators are leaving the profession with a presentation to members of the Legislature’s education committees titled “Retaining Educators in Idaho.”
“I believe kids deserve the absolute best that we can give them,” Lauritzen told member of the House Education Committeer. “I believe Idaho students deserve the absolute best teachers we can give them and retaining the very best educators in Idaho is absolutely paramount.”
Lauritzen started her presentation by laying out the impact that today’s high turnover among educators — 10 percent overall, but 30 percent in rural areas — is having on students, district budgets and teacher quality. She cited surveys of educators showing more than half are considering leaving the profession.
“High turnover — even if it’s 10 percent, even if it’s 30 percent — undermines student achievement,” Lauritzen said. “These rates are highest for schools that serve low income students, and they are already at a disadvantage.”
The loss of veteran educators and districts being forced to replace them with those who haven’t even finished their student teaching requirement for certification is a very concerning trend that inevitably hurts student achievement, Lauritzen said.
“My husband was just hired as a new teacher in the Coeur d’Alene School District, and he didn’t even get to finish his student teaching,” Lauritzen said. “As a math teacher, he needed to get in the job right away because they were so desperate for teachers. Luckily. he’s really good at his job.”
She went on to describe how stress, uncompetitive pay, large class sizes, student mental wellbeing and behavior challenges are all contributing to educator burnout.
Her suggested solutions for lawmakers?
- Pay educators a salary that compares with other fields that require bachelor’s or master’s degrees
- Help educators pay for the professional development required for recertification, as is done for other professions
- Fund education at the state level to avoid relying on bond and levy ballot measures
- Provide funding to a level that allows smaller class sizes “so that we can make really meaningful connections with our students”
She also urged lawmakers create a pathway for Idaho educators to be certified as behavior analysts and to move past the politicization of social emotional learning, a saying “it’s not a bad word.”
“Students these days really do need skills in self-awareness, self-control and interpersonal skills,” she told lawmakers. “I know that a lot of times we like to think that these are being taught in the home, but a lot of times they are not. And our kids come to school needing to be safe, needing to be loved, before they can be taught. And sometimes it’s my job to help them learn those skills.”
And as lawmakers seek other ways to retain Idaho educators, Lauritzen encouraged them to go straight to the source.
“More than anything I hope you will ask educators how to help them stay — and listen to educators,” she said.