Examining Teacher Attrition through the Experiences of Former Teachers before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Kimberley Devers, Ibrahim Duyar, Karen Buchanan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Schools across the nation are impacted by the influx of teachers leaving the profession. Record-high teacher shortages devastate public schools as classrooms remain unstaffed, and students miss quality instruction. The current study examined the experiences of former teachers before and during the COVID-19 pandemic that led to their exit from the profession. The overall research question was, “What experiences led teachers to exit the profession before and during the COVID-19 pandemic?” Using Maslach’s Burnout Theory as a guiding framework, qualitative data were collected during 10 in-depth interviews with former educators. Ten participants were selected using purposive sampling for interviews. The following criteria were utilized to select participants for interviews: taught in a South Carolina public school for at least eight years, taught during the pandemic, and quit or retired early. Potential limitations that were identified for the study included a limited number of participants, the emotional distress of reliving leaving the teaching profession, and the utilization of a virtual platform to conduct interviews. Data analyses resulted in the following themes contributing to teacher attrition: Lack of support from the administration, lack of professional autonomy, and increased stress. These were the most consistent themes noted before and during the pandemic. This research study provides educational leaders and policy makers with the voices of teachers who have left the profession, thus providing valuable data to make informed decisions in an effort to reverse the current teacher attrition trend. The determinants of teacher shortage identified in the data analysis of this phenomenological study can be addressed immediately within individual schools to help resolve the teacher shortage. Recommendations for future practice include administrators developing trusting relationships with teachers as well as educational leaders providing educators with a voice in decisions that affect their classrooms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number184
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • burnout
  • COVID-19
  • teacher attrition
  • teacher shortage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Computer Science Applications


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