This school year has brought a lot of challenges especially for classes with substitutes. Teachers with classes are also forced to take on more work leading to stressful situations. (Charles Sacco)
This school year has brought a lot of challenges especially for classes with substitutes. Teachers with classes are also forced to take on more work leading to stressful situations.

Charles Sacco

Teacher burnout: Educators open up about being overworked during the school year

February 25, 2022

Teachers at Akins have been feeling overwhelmed and overworked, being pressured to deliver curriculum in a certain way, and battling the anxiety that comes with teaching while COVID cases are surging.

Not only has this affected teachers, but it has also affected students and their quality of education.

This school year has brought a lot of changes and challenges. There was an expectation from the district and the community to completely “return to normal” compared to the previous couple of years of remote learning, which had its own unique pressures on teachers, students and parents.

However, it’s been a difficult transition considering that several academic departments are short-staffed, resulting in several classrooms led by substitute teachers and instruction delivered via online modules. The stress of the national teacher shortage the country is experiencing is also creating additional strain on the teachers, who have taken on additional workloads.

New Pressures on Teachers

Since December, secondary-level teachers have been worried about a district proposal, which would eliminate one of their two conference periods, which is time they use to plan, grade and meet with colleagues and parents. Instead, they would be forced to teach an additional class period next year with less time to do all of the necessary non-instruction tasks required of teachers.

This proposed change was often cited as a reason for additional stress by 27 Akins teachers who responded to an online survey by The Eagle’s Eye, sharing how impactful this proposal would be for the way they teach and organize their teaching curriculum. An Akins teacher said in a survey response that the proposal has them seriously considering leaving teaching in Austin ISD.

“If I was considering staying in teaching, taking away a planning period would make me switch districts in a heartbeat. I’ve done that before – it is horrible,” they wrote.

These kinds of factors are some of the reasons teachers have said they feel overwhelmed this year. According to the survey conducted by The Eagle’s Eye, 92.6% of Akins teachers feel more stressed this year compared to previous ones.

English teacher Ryan Thomas shared how decisions from the district have not helped to ease the already existing struggles of the pandemic.

“Last year, we were in an emergency situation and it was easy to extend grace to district and state leadership, even when they were not making the best decisions,” he said. “This year, the same leadership has continued to make decisions that are ignorant at best and cynically focused on perception over actual results at worst. Instead of being given resources, support, and understanding, teachers and students are being given mandates and told to figure it out as best we can. I feel unappreciated and disrespected by district leadership.”

I recevied the lowest evaluation I have had in the history of my teaching career. It was like a gut punch after all I do for this campus and my students. Morale is at the lowest I have ever seen at Akins and also in AISD. It’s so hard to come to work when you don’t feel valued by the district or school you work for.”

— Anonymous Response

This shared feeling from teachers has been impacting students’ educational experience. Several teachers have left since the beginning of the school year, leaving students in this turmoil of not knowing what will happen with their classes and credits, or even if they will have a permanent teacher assigned before the year ends.

Not being able to give enough resources and teachers to complete the curriculum has clear effects on students because teachers find it difficult to provide the support students need to get caught up with the learning loss of the last school year.

Such has left a noticeable effect for teachers in their classrooms. They have to adjust to the new expectations from the district while finding the balance within their classrooms to be able to offer the level of education that every student needs. One teacher in the survey wrote that the gaps in knowledge between students is “massive.”

“I have students who can’t multiply and students who are ready for more challenging problems in the same class,” they wrote. “All the extra data asked to be tracked and documented is impossible to complete on top of regular teaching duties.”

The teacher shared how it is not only that the district is giving new requirements and expectations that they have to follow, but that teachers have to face the challenge of finding the extra time and effort to give all students the support they need.

“It’s difficult to catch students who need to be retaught 7th, 8th-grade math while also providing rigorous coursework for STAAR,” they wrote. “I teach a STAAR tested subject to freshmen who at the beginning of the semester didn’t have teachers in multiple of their classes.”

Another factor to mention is teachers who have to take on the lead of multiple classes without getting compensated for it. One teacher wrote that this has caused extreme stress.

“My stress levels are so high this year! We’ve had so many teachers that have left at the beginning of the year or mid-year,” they wrote. “Those of us in leadership roles have to pick up the slack and grade for those classes with ghost teachers. At one point this year I was grading for 14 classes and it nearly did me in! That’s 8 extra classes and I did not get paid for it.”

Natalie Fontenot, a United States History teacher said she loves teaching, but it feels like every year it gets harder to manage the workload.
“Teachers already are asked to come in before school, stay after school, work in the summer and complete professional development outside of the school day,” she wrote on the survey. “One year I did give up a planning period to teach an extra class, but I was paid for it. If I have a planning period taken away, I don’t know how I’ll be able to teach more than one (course).”

Teachers face more expectations, more workload, and no extra pay for it, which lowers students’ educational quality, thus making it harder to catch up with the learning loss.

The COVID Factor

Teachers also said in The Eagle’s Eye survey that they feel unappreciated and unsupported with how the district is handling COVID. One teacher wrote that it is hard to come to work when they don’t feel valued by the district they work for.

“The district took away our COVID leave this year. Even H-E-B gives COVID leave to their employees,” they wrote. “My son had surgery earlier in the year, so I used up most of my time then. I don’t have very many days left and I worry each day that I will have to take off if I get COVID.”

I still want to teach. I honestly want to teach more than ever. My students remain the reason I teach. It’s just the district getting in my way in order to pad their own numbers to try and look successful when they’re not. ”

— Anonymous Response

Several teachers said they have worried at some point about becoming sick with COVID or the school needing to resume online classes because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Not all teachers said that the current school year felt much worse than previous school years in terms of stress. Some wrote that they believe the educational experience this year is better than last year.

“I really love teaching, and I really love my beautiful kiddos,” they wrote. “Love the people in my department, and in my hall, and the administration is very teacher friendly. Support staff is great too. I’ve worked in a few schools, and Akins is special in its true and real concern for the well-being of our kiddos and of each other.”

However, teachers find it difficult to keep the peace and find the support they need. Most teachers seem afraid to speak about the problems existing at school and on district level, explaining why most prefer to remain in anonymity.

On the other hand, this can also be taken as an opportunity to become closer as a community. An Akins teacher shared,
“I have not had the support I need. Oddly, this has brought everyone closer together,” they wrote. “I feel more sympathy for my students, and they feel more sympathy for me, but we’re actively fighting against a system that seems to be designed against our success. Even when I am okay at the workplace, we have rising prices, stagnating wages, and a whole pandemic to try and defend ourselves against.” they said.

The Toll on Mental Health

The same way students’ mental health has been affected throughout the pandemic, teachers have been dealing with changes in their teaching experience that makes it challenging to keep up with their job, and some have already decided to leave teaching at Akins.

“It was probably the hardest decision that I’ve ever had to make,” Ryan Thomas said. “Mostly because I feel responsible to my students. But the reason that I ended up deciding to do it is because I just couldn’t see myself finishing the year and maintaining my own mental health. I think I could do it. I could power through but I would feel a lot of stress and anxiety. I already feel that way,” he said.

Teachers said their appreciation for their students keeps them wanting to teach, but they are struggling because the way they feel about their job affects how they provide education for students.

“There are days where I wake up and just thinking about coming to work makes me feel physically ill and it really sucks to feel that way about a job that in some ways I still love and that I used to love fully,” Thomas said. “But it doesn’t change that that feeling is real. And a big part of it isn’t even the actual work itself. But it’s more about the attitude that our society has toward education. I think many people feel that we can just pretend the pandemic never happened and isn’t still ongoing. And we can just wave a magic wand as teachers and make everything normal and right again. And if we can’t, we’re somehow bad teachers letting our students down.”

I still want to teach. I honestly want to teach more than ever. My students remain the reason I teach. It’s just the district getting in my way in order to pad their own numbers to try and look successful when they’re not. ”

— Anonymous Response

Thomas said he wants his students to know that he still cares about students even though he has decided to leave teaching.

“I want them to know that I still care about them, that I still love them, that I’m not leaving because of them,” he said. “If anything, I’m leaving because it hurts me too much to see what the system does to them every day.”

Heba Dalu contributed to this story.

Teacher Quotes

EE: Would you describe this year as more stressful than previous years in your teaching career? Depending on how you answered the question about stress levels, please explain your answer.

My stress this year is a different kind of stress than in previous years. I am more exhausted at the end of the teaching day than I have ever been before. There seems to be a higher level of the “unknown” outside of my classroom than in previous years. I feel like we jumped into this school with the expectation that we were supposed to completely turn around the “learning loss” that happened through virtual learning without allowing us to take the extra time and energy that really requires. We usually address remedial learning in small group, supportive settings. This year it seems like we’re being rushed to perform out of fear.”

— Natalie Fontenot

Dealing with Covid both in the workplace as a teacher but also at home with two little ones who attend daycare has added a lot of stress to the school year. It’s a lot having to constantly worry about keeping my family healthy when I work around so many people everyday.”

— Stephanie Matthews

Last year, we were in an emergency situation and it was easy to extend grace to district and state leadership, even when they were not making the best decisions. This year, the same leadership has continued to make decisions that are ignorant and best and cynically focused on perception over actual results at worst. Instead of being given resources, support, and understanding, teachers and students are being given mandates and told to figure it out as best we can. I feel unappreciated and disrespected by district leadership.”

— Ryan Thomas

Stresses include: Not having teachers in the classroom, lockdowns, fighting and vandalism, having to cover for other teachers (I’m an inclusion teacher), not having students, not having anywhere to put my students, not having the support I need for students with disabilities, and having a district that sees putting the burden on the teachers as a solution. I go into classrooms where my lack of support could get me physically injured, and when I ask about it I get vague and ineffectual answers.”

— Anonymous Response

The gaps of knowledge in our students are massive, I have students who can’t multiply and students who are ready for more challenging problems in the same class. All the extra data asked to be tracked and documented is impossible to complete on top of regular teaching duties. It’s difficult to catch students up who need to be retaught 7th, 8th grade math while also providing rigorous course work for STAAR. I teach a STAAR tested subject to freshman who at the beginning of the semester didn’t have teachers in multiple of their classes. The discipline and classroom management is having to be retaught and retrained. The use of cell phones and tiktok are negatively impacting student’s ability to think for themselves. The district has also put so much extra corporate duties and not enough people.”

— Anonymous Response

EE: What are the major differences related to teaching during a pandemic that have made your job challenging?

The students tell me we will never go back to the way it was with normalcy or the school years before 2021, which they argue, we all took for granted. The comments by lawmakers and lobbyists about our teaching and curricula are baseless and ill-informed, especially the attempts to stifle our study of all Americans, historical primary sources, and classic and contemporary classic American literary works.”

— Anonymous Response

The high absence rate. Also some of my students seem more withdrawn, less willing to speak in class, less engaged. Kids try and avoid eye contact even when you’re just greeting them at the door, and I’m not an intimidating presence or anything. There’s just a little difficulty in the social aspect of teaching that wasn’t there pre-pandemic.”

— Anonymous Response

I am tired and therefore less patient in the classroom. I don’t know if I have formed the strong relationships this year as I have in the past. The students seem distant and uninterested. There’s an unspoken fear of spreading Covid in the classroom which prevents us from doing some of the activities I used to love to do. ”

— Anonymous Response

EE: Would you describe yourself as feeling “burned out”? If so, what has caused you to feel this way?

Yes. Lack of student effort. Teachers have done so much to meet the students’ needs and are met with lack of enthusiasm and effort..”

— Anonymous Response

Lack of communication and support from the main office regarding subs. There’s no unity among teachers because everyone is in survival mode. Teaching is not as fun as it used to me. ”

— Anonymous Response

EE: Would you say you feel like you are ready to leave your current teaching position? If are considering leaving your teaching position what factors have made you decide to do so?

Yes. Work conditions and amount of work for the low pay, unfunded and politically motivated mandates from state and district leadership, acquiring COVID from teaching”

— Ryan Thomas

Yes. Mostly the fact that I have felt zero appreciation for my work over the past two years. This coupled with the fact that the superintendent seems to think that we should work and extra class without compensation makes other careers that pay more for less work seem attractive to say the least. ”

— Anonymous Response

Yes. It is time for me to retire, with the schedule changing next year and the prospect of more pandemic, this is a good time to make a change”

— Anonymous Response

EE: If you are considering staying in your current position, what keeps you wanting to stay as a teacher at Akins?

The family atmosphere. I worry I won’t find this anywhere else. I know too many that come back or wish they hadn’t left. ”

— Anonymous Response

I love my students! They are the only things that have kept me here this year.”

— Anonymous Response

I love the people here. The students are without question the best part of my day every day. They are smart and curious and funny and resilient. My co-workers have helped me retain what little sanity I have left. I believe administrators are genuinely trying to make things better. Plus, I believe in public education. I think we are better as a community and nation when we have an educated populace. I will go further and submit that I believe destroying public education is part of the plan for certain lawmakers. The poorly educated are ripe for exploitation by the greedy owner class and easier for the “law and order” crowd to control. It’s not a coincidence that it was illegal to teach the enslaved in this country to read and write. I don’t want the anti-public education forces to win.”

— Anonymous Response

EE: What obstacles have you faced while trying to teach this year?

Feeling overworked, Feeling overwhelmed, Concerns about health and safety, Pressure related to STAAR testing, Pressure related to new state laws that affect how you deliver curriculum, Possible reduction in planning periods in the next school year, Attempting to keep up to date with changing policies and students’ goals for postsecondary studies, local employment, and professional careers.”

— Anonymous Response

Concerns about health and safety, Pressure related to new state laws that affect how you deliver curriculum, Possible reduction in planning periods in the next school year”

— Carlos Garcia

Feeling overworked, Feeling overwhelmed, Concerns about health and safety, Pressure related to STAAR testing, Pressure related to new state laws that affect how you deliver curriculum, Possible reduction in planning periods in the next school year, The district wants good numbers, so they create new programs to make us work more so they have numbers that look good (aka the SCA). But these numbers don’t reflect reality. Our district needs to think about the students, not themselves.”

— Anonymous Response

EE: How have the pressures you face as a teacher affected your mental health?

I have had to start going to therapy and taking more mental health days. What we are being asked to do as teachers this year in a pandemic, it’s just too much.”

— Anonymous Response

Yes, I’ve had to learn to disassociate myself from stress. I can no longer carry it with me everywhere.”

— Anonymous Response

Most weeks I do not sleep well until the school week is over. I have lost interests in most of my hobbies and do not seem to have time to do anything outside or working hours. This has led to significant burnout and the feeling that a new career path would be more better for my health. ”

— Anonymous Response

EE: What do you think about the proposed changes to teachers’ workload related to the number of required periods that you teach?

I think it’s the district’s attempt to deal with some budgetary shortfalls. It increases high school teachers workload while it decreases the number of teachers needed. So, the district is trying to solve the budget problems on the backs of high school teachers. I’d really prefer we not go that route, but the district is in a tough spot and teacher salaries comprise most of the budget, so I understand their thinking.”

— Anonymous Response

Teachers need time to connect with each other about students’ learning and progress, instructional shared goals and planning, and our teaching philosophies and practices. Also, we will need breaks to go to the restroom. There will be a need to hire additional staff as floaters and for relief, so we can prepare instructional materials, meet with students and parents for conferences, and go to the restroom. These humane practices seem to be forgotten or deliberately ignored by decision makers. Hopefully, the majority who decide are listening and paying attention soon; we need more such professional adults among us.”

— Anonymous Response

I think we will lose a lot of teachers causing more stress on the ones that stay. We can’t fill open positions now so what makes the district think teachers will want to teach here if they are taking away planning periods. ”

— Anonymous Response

It’s a bad idea. It will make more teachers more stressed, less able to do their jobs, and more teachers will quit, leading to a worsening situation. ”

— Anonymous Response

EE: How has your experience with teaching at Akins changed in recent years?

I still love teaching here, but I do feel a sense of lowered morale. Teachers used to say without irony “welcome to the best school in the world.” Now we start out the day with patronizing and sarcastic announcements, and descend into a whimper of melancholy grumbling about the state of the unchanging sense of doom and gloom that hangs over us. ”

— Anonymous Response


Due to the pandemic I have lost my opportunities for building relationships and connecting with students. I have cancelled Spanish Club. We could not fundraise at Blue & Gold Night. I had to cancel my Travel Club trip to Costa Rica which we have been planning for 2 years. I can’t host my regional food party in Spanish 3. We don’t eat lunch together as a department like we used to. We don’t have late starts with academy meetings which I LOVED because I am a people person. I don’t work well in isolation. ”

— Anonymous Response

Akins ECHS has many caring, knowledgeable, and wonderful staff members from the school offices to the classroom, gym, and fields to the school hallways and custodial support services. Everyone contributes and is interconnected whether we notice this daily or sometimes take the journey and present for granted. We all give to and share with many in our work here.”

— Anonymous Response

I feel the total atmosphere has declined since Ms. Hosack left. The matter of fact responses that are given from admin are sometimes harsh and without heart especially during the pandemic. I have heard numerous admin say . “it’s Omicron, everybody is going to get it.” I think this response is heartless and even though it is very contagious, I am working my ass off not to get it. I wash my hands, where a mask at all times, eat off campus or in my car and use hand sanitizer throughout the day. I wish the admin would take it a little more seriously. ”

— Anonymous Response

It’s not like Akins itself has gotten “worse” over the years. Problems related to public education have just been exacerbated on a year to year basis, and we feel those affects more and more. It used to be that Akins insulated us from those problems; Tina insulated us from those problems. But Akins & Tina could only be a shield for so long.”

— Anonymous Response

EE: What do you believe should be done to better support teachers who are feeling overwhelmed this year?

Pay them more, the workload itself doesn’t change unless a myriad of things magically get solved, like Greg Abbott suddenly campaigning for higher pay instead of the politically-motivated “Parent Education Bill of Rights”. ”

— Anonymous Response

Cancel star testing, cancel evaluations and PPfT scoring, keep teachers at 6/8 course load, provide teachers resources to address their mental health like therapy and access to the resources they need and extend this to students as well, reassure students that their needs are our priority so we don’t have to spend a school year convincing them that we’re trying to help. ”

— Anonymous Response

Additional ‘mental health days,’ additional sick leave for those with children, more teacher appreciation events, ”

— Anonymous Response

I think that the rubrics/strands designed for teacher evaluations are a micro-managed quagmire. I don’t see how any evaluator or teacher being evaluated can handle the cognitive overload of each descriptor. I think that both teachers and administrators need to be given leeway to run their school and classrooms in a way that recognizes the clear effect the pandemic has affected our humanity, both on a micro and macro scale. You can’t keep the same expectations when your entire life experience continues to be altered. We are in the middle of a psychological earthquake that hasn’t stopped rolling yet.”

— Carlos Garcia

Actually ask teachers and students for their opinions and ideas before issuing mandates that expect more and more of us. Use evidence and research when making decisions. Allocate the budget more wisely ($8 million to scan teacher social media with AI when our school copiers don’t even work). Raise sub pay earlier in the year. Make mental health support and resources more widely available and advertise existing services more. Create a more uniform system for students to catch up from quarantining.”

— Ryan Thomas

Frankly, actually give us support instead of lip service and a weekly email that tells us how great we are doing. We need leadership that actually has the interest of teachers as a mainstay, not a slogan that administration trots out every couple of months and a free sandwich from Chic-fil-A. Above all, if you expect us to increase our workload while simultaneously stripping us of a planning period then you better be prepared to pay us for it, otherwise you can expect yet another great resignation as teachers realize their skills can easily transition to a new career that not only pays more, but actually appreciates their work. ”

— Anonymous Response

What about chair massages? An outdoor barbecue or block party in our courtyard. Surprise meals or snacks. Message notes written and shared by students and staff with each other. Music in the courtyard or foyer. More painted colors and pastels in the hallways. Alumni news that reveals we make a difference. Staff members of the week or month program named Staff Member at Akins Reaches to the Top (SMART) Heroes. Happygrams to each of us for what we do. Students organized for change and voicing their concerns and joys. Outdoor or indoor talent show led by staff. Should a naysayer say NO to all these suggestions, I would still bring them up in Aug. 2022. ”

— Anonymous Response

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About the Contributors
Photo of Fabiana Holod
Fabiana Holod, InDepth Editor
Grade: 12th

Academy: ECHS

Number of Years on Staff: New to staff

Title: InDepth Editor

Why do you enjoy being on staff? It’s a fun way to get involved with school activities. I quite enjoy interviewing and writing about topics of matter, especially if It’s a way to make students’ voices be heard.

What do you do for fun? Listen to music, sing and roller skating.

What are your hobbies? Lifting weights, biking, and skating.

Hopes & Dreams after high school? Obtain a master in medical sciences
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Charles Sacco, Staff Artist
Grade: 11

Academy: AHA

Number of Years on Staff: 1

Why do you enjoy being on staff? I have specifically assigned artwork to make, rather than trying to come up with material from scratch all the time, rules help to grow. 

What do you do for fun? A lot of free time is spent holding instruments, or writing utensils, or controllers, or whatever I can do to pass the time when there’s too much of it.

What are your hobbies? Anything listed above ^

Hopes & Dreams after high school? Although not planned at all, I think I’d want to try and work my way into a small apartment or some living space, I don’t know why I just like the thought of independent living.

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