Recent teacher activism has revealed that many teachers feel they are underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. And while many school districts don’t have the ability to increase salaries or benefits, an Education Week video series describes a few creative approaches they can take to meet teachers' needs and keep them in the classroom.
Some districts are offering low-cost, on-site child care options, while others present teachers with wellness options such as free gym memberships, onsite health care and stress reduction classes to keep them healthier and happier in the classroom. Both benefits, Education Week notes, present more convenient options to educators that also emphasize work-life balance.
- In areas where finding affordable housing is an issue for teachers, districts finding creative solutions — such as the tiny homes offered in Vail, Arizona — can make the difference in successful teacher recruitment. Paid sabbaticals for teachers can also allow time for recharging and, perhaps, pursuing academic coursework so educators feel refreshed and ready to return to the classroom, rather than succumbing to burnout.
Every school district is different, and the same goes for teachers' individual needs. As districts look to face the recurring prospect of attracting new educators and retaining those that are serving students well, they sometimes need to get creative about offering or advertising the perks that can entice them to either come or stay.
While teacher pay is at the forefront of discussions in most teacher strike scenarios, the reality is that most school districts cannot afford to give teachers more money across the board, especially in the face of competing priorities and the possibility of a looming recession. However, there are other creative solutions that may benefit teachers in ways that are less expensive in the long run.
Free or reduced child care is an option some districts can consider. In some cases, district-run child care centers already exist as a way to encourage young mothers to complete their high school diplomas. Child care centers can also be used as part of a program to help high school students earn child care credentials and experience, making it a win-win for the district.
As some school districts expand wraparound services to include health care as part of a community school model, it may make sense to expand these services for teachers as well. Teachers are less likely to be absent if they can get access to health care and basic medications on campus. Schools can also offer opportunities for exercise and stress reduction, either through organized activities on campus before or after school, or by working with local fitness facilities to offer free or low-cost memberships.
For some districts, teacher housing is a major issue. Appropriate housing may not always be available nearby, or it may be priced out of range for a typical teacher's salary. More school districts are exploring ways, such as tiny homes, to offer more affordable housing options to teachers.
Sabbaticals were offered more in the past in some districts but fell by the wayside during times of financial stress. But despite a school district not being able to fully fund a paid sabbatical, offering a limited number of these opportunities as a perk for long-term teachers may still be a good way to retain teachers with the most valuable experiences in the hope of having them return to the classroom both refreshed and ready to teach for years to come.
Though the perks may change or work better in some situations as compared to others, some constants remain: These options all help solve problems in the lives of teachers and help them feel valued and appreciated in the process.