Teacher Retention Strategies on a Budget

By Dora Esparza, Business Leadership Specialist

Being a teacher is hard. There are challenging behaviors, there’s the inability to use the restroom whenever nature calls, the guilt of calling in when the germs finally take over, and other draining issues. For teachers to face all of this and feel like their school administration is not supportive can make things feel even harder. Although there is a lot of research on teacher retention, many schools still need to put retention strategies into practice.

The good news is, there are some free and low-cost ways to retain your teachers! One of the best ways to keep them going is a clear and transparent salary scale. This scale states what the wage is based on education as well as experience so that teachers have something clear to work toward. Another free way to empower teachers is to provide a way for them to have input in the program. This could be an annual policy meeting where teachers weigh in on policies that are working and policies that aren’t, having teachers be on the hiring panel for new administrators, or having teachers assist with preparing for a Colorado Shines rating by working to compile evidence. Both the salary scale and the methods of teacher input assist in creating a space where teachers are clear on expectations and rewards, and feel like they are a valued part of the program.

If possible, programs can consider ladders within the school that create additional leadership opportunities for teachers. This can be heading up the parent group, creating mentor positions for teachers to mentor incoming teacher aides, or working with teachers to get their coaching credential so they can coach peers. One of the more challenging but beneficial methods of teacher retention is structuring staffing to be more flexible. This might include structuring four 10-hour shifts, hybrid roles that allow for flexing time when possible, or innovative approaches such as job sharing that allow teachers to grow professionally while maintaining a sustainable work-life balance. Although this can require a little extra effort, life-balance scheduling is very alluring for teachers, many of whom have young families.

There are also little things that can add up to a culture of support and teamwork like Minute to Win It games at staff meetings (Google it!), team activities to build teamwork, an annual retreat if possible to touch base as a group, or monthly pizza lunches or sundae bars. These small things are either free or low-cost and can really foster a culture of fun and positivity.

If you feel your center could use some coaching around teacher retention, feel free to contact me at dora@denverearlychildhood.org.