EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

At ‘Show up for Teachers’ conference, a focus on teacher mental health

Jul 14, 2022, 8:00 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 10:34 am
teachers mental health...
FILE: Bill Coleman, a sixth grade teacher, chats with Jerry Oyler during class at Nibley Park School in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The issues of stress and mental health in the lives of Utah teachers were front and center this week at a conference hosted by Utah First Lady Abby Cox. The ‘Show up For Teachers Conference’ was held at the Salt Palace Convention Center, and focused on issues involving emotional well-being as well as subjects that can enhance that well-being. Those included personal finance, goal setting, and conflict resolution.

On KSL NewsRadios Dave & Dujanovic, First Lady Cox said that the stress teachers faced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was overwhelming.

“We talked to teachers all over the state,” said Cox. “I’ve talked to them almost daily and hear stories from educators from all over the state saying ‘we got through that first year of the pandemic and we really felt exhausted. But we did feel that people were looking at us as heroes.'”

But a year later, Cox said, teachers felt that they were doing additional difficult work and that even more was being thrown at them.

“They were trying to catch kids up from the time they’ve lost,” Cox said. “And now, they’re getting hit by all kinds of rhetoric around their jobs.”

Cox warned that the existing job market is such that teachers could easily leave and find something else. And she predicted that could have dire consequences for the state of Utah.

“If we’re not careful, we will lose our educators. And thereby, we will not have a future as a state.”

A poll conducted by the National Education Association in January, 2022, found that 55% of the teachers in the survey said they would leave the field much sooner than they planned. Most of them cited burnout and pandemic-related stress.

“Phenomenal conference, incredible feedback”

First Lady Cox said that the conference was a success because it focused on teachers’ mental health.

“We wanted to craft this conference to be exactly what they needed,” Cox said. Teachers said they needed help for themselves. Including a focus on emotional intelligence skills, self-care, and on their mental health.

There is a silver lining in the news from the teacher front, Cox said. Teachers in some districts and schools do feel supported. They feel they are getting what they need.

“We want to replicate that feeling of support,” First Lady Cox said. “We want to make sure that every school and every district has … a wellness plan in place for their educators, as well as their students.”

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At ‘Show up for Teachers’ conference, a focus on teacher mental health