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8:42 PM Tue, Oct. 23rd

Why I retired from teaching

I have enjoyed the privilege of being an educator in our great community for the last 22 years. (36 years total) I love teaching and love my students. Yes, they can be defiant, disrespectful and unmotivated, but they are also very engaging, good-natured and fun. Being recently retired allows me the opportunity to share my school experiences in the hope that I can inform, in order to help reform, our schools. I am encouraging my fellow teachers to share their opinions and experiences in order to more effectively address the issues facing educators and schools today.

I was lucky to start my teaching career in Wyoming, which has excellent teacher training and high pay. When I started teaching in Kingman, it was a major change from what I was used to, but I loved the desert and the community. We are fortunate to have so many gifted, successful teachers in Kingman.

What is deeply concerning is the number of educators leaving for other states, retiring or just quitting the profession. Year after year teaching positions remain unfilled, subjecting children to substitute after substitute.

Compounding the problem is a new teacher accountability system adopted by Kingman Unified School District, which puts heavy emphasis on student test scores based on the abstract, complex Common Core standards.* In addition, KUSD purchased a micro-management teaching tool called "Beyond Textbooks" to keep educators on track.

During the last year of my tenure, I was pressured to conform to this strict teaching schedule with the same worksheets, tests, methodology, and teaching script as others teaching the same subject. Conformity was monitored by regular gradebook checks performed by department heads or data collectors. If a teacher did not produce the necessary results, they were put on an "improvement plan."

How did I handle this intrusion? I refused to comply. You can call it being "creatively insubordinate." Thank goodness I had a principal who understood my need to control my own classroom, which I had done successfully for 35 years.

I chose to leave at the end of this year and I was not alone. In KUSD, there were 84 certified vacancies at the end of May. This is unprecedented in my 22 years of teaching. I cannot begin to understand all the reasons behind the mass exodus. I can only share my own.

Arizona is 30th in the United States for per capita income, but is 47th in per pupil spending and teacher salaries. I am the last person to advocate tax increases, but I am disheartened and saddened by the lack of respect shown by Arizona voters and leaders toward our most precious resource, our children. The problems in public education are systemic and complex in nature. Teachers need to be given the freedom to try new approaches, not be limited by top down, one-size-fits all, factory models. Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post states "only about 25% percent of teachers graduate in the top third of their college classes, and an estimated 40 to 50 percent of new teachers quit within five years. Other professions offer better pay and less frustration." A positive start for our beautiful state would be to attract and retain good teachers. Great teachers can help build successful communities. Will there be good teachers lining up for jobs in Arizona?

I want to hear from others in the classroom.....

Dorothy Buckelew

Golden Valley

*Arizona has implemented a form of Common Core called PARCC, or Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards,