HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Jessica Gentry, a former kindergarten teacher at Stone Spring Elementary in Harrisonburg, said she's always had a passion for teaching, but the current education system made her go knocking at the door of a different career.
Photo credit: Jessica Gentry
In a viral Facebook post that's been shared more than 180,000 times, Gentry laid out the five reasons why she believes teachers are "leaving the occupation like their hair is on fire."
Among those reasons are a lack of parenting, the overuse of technology, a customer service mindset, and physical and mental strain.
"The stories that you hear and that students share with you, you take that home with you. It's hard to unpack all of that," Gentry said.
Gentry also spoke with "Good Morning America" this week and told them her decision to leave teaching was a difficult one that followed reaching out to human resources on two occasions.
Michael Richards, the Superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools, told WHSV in a statement:
"Many of Ms. Gentry’s concerns have been squarely on my radar for some time. I have plans to address these and other concerns here in Harrisonburg, where I started as superintendent only a month ago. Too often teachers feel that no one really understands their concerns and that solutions are imposed on them. I plan to partner with teachers so that I am aware of their concerns and they have a voice in the solutions."
A study by the University of Virginia shows 22 percent of teachers leave their jobs after the first year. That number jumps to nearly 50 percent after four years.
Gentry told WHSV that she believes she speaks on behalf of many teachers, and wants to be a voice that brings these issues to light.
"There are so many voices out there that are afraid to even comment," she said. "It's not about pay, it never was and never will be. It's just about respect."
A full statement from Dr. Richards can be found below:
"I would take issue with the notion that teachers are leaving the profession “like their hair’s on fire.” Ms. Gentry may have her own reasons for making that assertion. Teaching is the noblest profession in the world, and the vast majority of teachers are dedicated to the vital work of empowering the next generation. Teaching is definitely a very challenging profession, and it is not for everyone. It requires longer hours than most people believe it does, and it presents multifaceted challenges that blend social and intellectual skills. Some of Ms Gentry’s concerns are entirely valid. For instance, it is imperative that we provide teachers with adequate planning and collaboration time and that we do not pull them away from instructional time. It is imperative that we help students develop strong social skills, especially as society turns increasingly toward device-driven communication. At the same time, we need to empower students to use technology to enrich their learning and develop real-world skills. It is important that we support teachers in developing productive partnerships with parents. Many of Ms. Gentry’s concerns have been squarely on my radar for some time. I have plans to address these and other concerns here in Harrisonburg, where I started as superintendent only a month ago. Too often teachers feel that no one really understands their concerns and that solutions are imposed on them. I plan to partner with teachers so that I am aware of their concerns and they have a voice in the solutions."