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The Monarch Times

The Monarch Times

Teachers Leaving Mt. Eden: Larger Problem Among School Districts

English teachers Leah Talbott and Heather Eastwood left Mt. Eden over safety concerns. They had been teaching at Mt. Eden for 15 years. 

Among students, Talbott was known for her tough but impactful teaching style. Her curriculum consisted of intense book readings, passionate class discussions, lectures, and essay writing. The 9th-grade students saw Eastwood as the “miniboss” to Talbott, a teacher who prepared them for higher-level thinking by building their foundations in the Schaffer writing style, analytical book reading, and basic grammar. They both shared that one of their most cherished values is their relationship with students.

While they wanted to be there for their students, both had doubts and worries about staying at Mt. Eden since last school year. These worries built over time: starting from the end of the school year, sticking with them over the summer, and carrying them into the beginning of school. 

Talbott and Eastwood are not the only teachers feeling anxious. More than 40% of K-12 teachers also feel burned out and stressed “very often” when teaching, according to a Gallup poll. COVID-19 played a big part in teacher stress because of missing materials, absent students, and school shutdowns. Nowadays, stress levels of K-12 workers remain consistently higher than all other professions nationally—more than a 10% difference.

“There is a teacher shortage throughout California. Hayward Unified School District has ‘hard to fill’ teacher positions… like Special Education and Spanish,” says Kim Watts,  HUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average number of missing teachers for each public school in the US is two, meaning two classes of students operate without their instructor. Moreover, California has one of the highest teacher- to-student ratios, at 1 teacher for every 22 students.

To counteract this, Watts says since last year, HUSD has been doing open recruitments—year-long advertisements through social media, Edjoin, Indeed, LinkedIn, and signing bonuses for positions like Special Education. As old teachers leave their positions, HUSD tries to fill these roles. She says that since HUSD has only recently employed these measures, they have yet to know if they are effective.

Despite these efforts from HUSD, Talbott and Eastwood decided to leave Mt. Eden.   “[I left] for various reasons. Primary among them is that I do not trust the administration of Mt. Eden to create a safe teaching and learning environment,” said Talbott. 

After a dispute last year about  teacher Henry Bens promoting Jewish hate in his classroom, she felt a sense of “dread” when coming to work. “I did not expect … my administrator to watch me be treated very poorly, and do nothing about it,” Talbott continued. From her perspective, she felt that the HUSD administration failed to create a safe environment during a hostile time for both teachers and students on campus. “In fact, those people who are supposed to be protecting me were making it worse.” 

“I didn’t feel that I was physically safe. I didn’t feel that I was intellectually safe. I didn’t feel that I was emotionally safe,” says Eastwood. For her, this feeling built up over years of teaching at Mt. Eden—enduring faulty fire alarms, unclear emergency drills, and a lack of information for students about school problems. While not the main reason for her leave, she considers last year’s situation with antisemitism a prime example of Mt. Eden’s unsafe environment.

“If one person hates people because of their membership in a group, that’s one thing. But what you hope is that the community is all in agreement and on the same page about how you respond,” said Eastwood. 

When asked about Talbott and Eastwood, Watts said that HUSD strives to support their teachers. “Every issue can be different, and depending on what the issue is, we match that course of action,” states Watts. By “matching action,” she means that the HUSD directs teachers with any specific problems to specialists, usually HUSD administrators, who help them solve the problem. She also says HUSD provides resources to help teachers with school problems.

Principal Monique Walton and Assistant Principal William Wright said they couldn’t comment on the situation due to a “law of confidentiality” relating to MEHS staff.

Talbott now teaches at San Lorenzo School District and says that the environment among the community and staff feels much better. Similarly, Eastwood says she enjoys teaching at Hayward High.

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