For One Iowa Teacher Leaving the Field, Harassment Over Curriculum Played a Big RoleBreaking News
tags: academic freedom, teaching history, secondary education
DES MOINES, Iowa —
Across the country, roughly 600,000 teachers left the profession between January 2020 and February 2022 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As of Friday, there are still more than 5,000 school positions unfilled across Iowa, according to Teach Iowa job postings. Over 1,000 of those are full-time teaching positions.
KCCI talked to one teacher who left the profession and one who stayed to get their perspective on Iowa's teacher shortage.
Nick Covington and Aaron Tecklenburg have lots of things in common. Both teach history. Both live in the Des Moines metro.
But as Tecklenburg heads back to school, Covington won't return to the classroom, for the first time in more than a decade.
Covington said that decision started with parent criticism of content he said he's been teaching for years.
"I was trying to teach my AP European History kids about issues in modern nationalism," Covington said. "It kind of launched me into a series of meetings with my administration, about parent complaints in the ways that I was teaching about white nationalism in the context of the history class. That was the start of a very long conversation that a year later ended in my resignation."
Covington said he was also targeted online.
"My picture from my school staff page got shared around on social media groups and personal accounts," Covington said. "The comments would read, you know, 'fire this guy' and expletives and all those kinds of things, too. And it's really hard just not to take those things personally."
He said that led to a lot of sleepless nights, days of unpaid leave for his own mental health and an impact on his students.
"You really start to say, 'Well, can I teach about these topics at all? Can I —if a student brings it up — do I feel comfortable addressing that in class?' and I had certainly hit a point where again, I was always on the watch for the next shoe to drop and wondering if the next thing I was going to teach about was going to be the thing that again gets me taken into another meeting."
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