Letter to the Editor: Teachers need to be treated with more respect

Editor:

There is a debate in Shenandoah County as to whether high turnover rates for teachers is a result of low compensation or low morale.  I think my personal story will show that the answer is “both” – and that both are largely caused by the same thing.

I started teaching late after raising a family. I taught locally for a number of years, but advancing age and the need to prepare for retirement came fast. Virginia teachers’ retirement incomes are based on their top three to five years’ earnings.  I am certified in an area where teachers are in short supply. I was recruited by a better-paying district, and the potential financial benefit for my family made too much sense to turn away.

I  left, intending to return. I reached my goal, receiving my five-year pin last year, and my retirement income is set. I am weary and in my sixties. I would like to come home, bringing my experience back to serve students and parents with whom I already know.

However, as hard as my daily commute is on my spirits, I worry that the morale situation in Shenandoah County Public Schools would be even harder.  The political movement headed by Supervisors Bailey and Shruntz has been disrespectful and dismissive toward teachers, and deprived them of some of the tools that help teachers be effective, even as they work to keep teacher salaries low. High turnover feeds on itself, as experienced teachers are strained mentoring less experienced peers.  Even loyal teachers who have resisted the allure of better salaries are  leaving for communities that give teachers more respect.

Dennis Morris is a man who respects education and its importance to a community. He has proven that time and again through his 36 years of service. A generation of great teachers is retiring from Shenandoah schools; they pursued their careers with Dennis as a wise and loyal ally on the Board of Supervisors, at a time when that body treated teachers with respect.  I was among them, and I crave a return to those times. Please vote, District 5.

Gayle Shaffer, Woodstock