Georgia’s Struggle to Employ and Retain Teachers

Representation of a teacher teaching in a classroom, which unfortunatley is starting to decline. 

Representation of a teacher teaching in a classroom, which unfortunatley is starting to decline. (Credit:

Drew Maddox and Katherine Holloway

The United States is currently struggling to meet its educational staffing needs, which has created a difficult situation. In the past two years in Georgia alone, 47% of teachers quit their jobs within the first five years of their employment. The lack of staffing comes down to teachers facing political challenges, exhaustion, the pandemic, and fears for their student’s safety.  

With more than 50% of educators considering leaving their profession earlier than planned, up from 37% a year ago, according to a survey released by the National Education Association, the epidemic is increasing each year.  

Annual salary plays a role in hiring and retaining employees in any industry and teacher salary is historically under the nation’s average of $74,738 per year in 2023 with an average nationwide teacher salary of $64,524. It’s important to note that this is an average of K-12 teacher salary and is not a starting salary point for newer teachers.    

Georgia’s Teacher Shortfall 

Georgia’s average teacher salary is below the nation’s average at $61,249 but not as low as Florida which ranks as the fourth lowest in the nation for teacher pay at $51,230.  In mid-January, Kemp announced a raise to K-12 teachers’ salaries of $2000 in the upcoming year.  

For some teachers, this salary boost is too little, too late.  

“It’s not just about pay. It is about other issues that are making them walk away,” said Cherie Goldman, the 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year in a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution article.  

Many educators, especially those working with younger students, cite feeling as though their jobs have devolved into a series of chores rather than something they truly enjoy.  

One prime example of teachers’ many responsibilities beyond education is when they were tasked with enforcing mask use and COVID-19 hygiene.  

“We’re asked to work past our contract hours, grade and lesson plan and do professional development without being paid for those hours,” said Zachary Davison, sixth-grade ELA teacher in Marietta. 

According to an Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) survey in 2021, 50% of teachers would not recommend teaching as a career.  

Roswell’s Teacher Shortage 

The noticeable exodus of educators from their positions can also be seen within Roswell. Four teachers in the English department: Ms. Samira Bregeth, Ms. Samantha Kendig, Ms. Marina Goddard, Ms. Kassidy Gaffigan, and Ms. Megan Volpert, the Sting’s Newspaper Advisor for 16 years, left within the last nine months or less.  

For 17 years, Bregeth taught AP Lang and creative writing classes, was the faculty advisor to the literary magazine, The Vox. Bregeth says she loved her job but was given a more beneficial opportunity teaching online from home to Fulton Virtual Academy of Excellence (FAVE).  

Departing at the same time as Bregeth at the end of Fall semester, Ms. Kendig was also offered another job despite loving what she does. She taught within Fulton County for a multitude of years, and most spent at Roswell. Kendig loved her job teaching English and writing skills but was yet offered a higher paying opportunity in the business sector.  


Both Bregeth and Kending were interviewed in mid-February about their decision to leave Roswell. 

What opportunity opened that led your decision to leave Roswell? 

Bregeth: My former colleague told me about a chance that opened at Fulton Academy of Virtual Excellence. I wasn’t looking to go anywhere because I love Roswell, but my curiosity got the best of me. I think change is good for anyone’s long-term career goals. 

Kendig: An opportunity arose outside of the teaching field that would allow for personal growth outside of my comfort zone and would afford my family a financial boost. Sometimes in life, scary opportunities end up being very rewarding. 

How long were you here and what was your favorite thing about Roswell? 

Bregeth: I was at RHS for nearly 17 years. My favorite thing, as always, is the community of students and teachers. I miss my teacher AND student besties. 

Kendig: How long I was at Roswell is a tough question to answer. I was at Roswell on and off for 26 years. I was an RHS student first, and then I went away to college (go Dawgs!); when I came back to Roswell, I was a wide-eyed, first-year teacher. I stumbled and grew and learned and taught ad became a real adult in Roswell. Then I left the workforce to raise my own tiny babies, came back as a long-term sub once they were in elementary school, tried out private school teaching for a minute, and finally, returned to the nest to brave Covid and find the comfort of my roots. My heart and treasured connections with colleagues, friends, and former students will always be anchored to Roswell. My favorite thing about Roswell is the easiest question to answer: my students. There is truly no greater fulfillment than getting to know each student, celebrating student triumphs, helping students through tribulations, watching students reach those light-bulb moments, laughing with students, sometimes crying with students, and hearing from students as they find their own way in the world beyond my classroom. It may sound cheesy, but being a teacher allowed me to find infinite space in my heart for countless young adults. I loved not knowing what each day would hold. I loved witnessing so many different perspectives and viewpoints of life. I loved getting to know so many different personalities. I loved the bantering back and forth with my students. I loved trying to impress upon them the importance of kindness and love and not judging each other. I loved knowing that no matter the year, there are so many beautiful souls out there. 

What do you think are the most common flaws in teachers, especially now versus the past? 

Bregeth: Teachers are some of the best people on this planet. I’ll say we are flawless since we are hard on ourselves and already think of 10,000 things we want to do better. 

Kendig: Teachers work their butts off, and we are all flawed. The only flaw that really bothers me is when an individual gets into the business of teaching without the right intentions or reasons and without the desire to work so hard to best serve, educate, love, guide, and foster students in a positive, intentional, dedicated way. 

What are you going to miss the most about working here? 

Bregeth: I miss the hallway chats, the solidarity, the marching band on Friday mornings, all the smiles, and the great vibe of a great workday! 

Kendig: I miss the spirit and the people and the camaraderie of teaching. In teaching, you and your colleagues are in it together. There is real love and respect between teachers. I am going to miss the students and feeling like I’m a part of an important journey… that I could make a difference. I’m going to miss the class conversations about a book or something going on in the word or a lesson that gives me a new perspective and leaves me the chills. 

Is there anything else you would like to mention? 

Bregeth: Too much! 

Kendig: Teaching is important because kids are important. I just hope that the teaching profession will someday be valued with fair competition, respect, and national attention so that really good teachers can continue to teach without the financial, political, and safety concerns that are present now. RHS and RHS students will always have my heart. 


Students affected the Most 

In the long run, the most concerning repercussion of teacher shortages is a decline in students’ academic achievements and motivation. In a study published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, a test scored between 5.4 million kids between third and eighth grade showed lots of changes during the pandemic. Reading and math scores between all of them dropped significantly, as a result from the pandemic pushing teachers away. 

Burnout among educators all over the country is also a result from teachers leaving classrooms. The teachers that stay are left with the responsibilities of those who left. Things such as larger class sizes and additional responsibilities are given to these educators staying, leading to behavioral problems between kids as well as class size increase.  

Possible Solutions  

According to a study on how states and districts can use American Rescue funds,  a possible solution exists in five steps: increase teacher effectiveness and Retention through comprehensive preparation, invest in programs that can take many forms from providing pathways to current school staff such as paraprofessionals and substitute teachers, to those that engage students early or recruit from the community, improving retention strategies and supporting educators/staff’s well-being educator well-being is closely tied to educator retention and effectiveness.