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Leadership Best Practices

How to Keep Your Best Teachers: Proven Strategies for School Leaders

October 16th, 2018

Young asian woman teacher teaching kids in kindergarten classroom, preschool education conceptThe best teachers enable the best student outcomes. This fact is not a surprise to school leaders who know all too well the value their most effective teachers bring to their schools and their students. To keep your best educators, you may already be focusing on several factors routinely associated with teacher job satisfaction, such as compensation and benefits. However, there are other critical intangibles within the purview of school leaders that can make a significant difference in teacher job satisfaction, and may make the difference in motivating tenure rather than turnover.

The Teacher-Student Quality Correlation

According to the RAND Corporation, while a variety of factors contribute to student academic performance, including individual characteristics, personal experiences, and family dynamics, as it pertains to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including available services, quality of facilities, and leadership. A similar report conducted by non-profit organization The New Teacher Project (TNTP), found that highly effective teachers impart five to six more months of learning per year than low-performing teachers.

If quality teachers lead to quality student outcomes, then that also means that when schools risk losing the best teachers, they risk putting students at a disadvantage that may result in a decline in academic performance, test results, or even enjoyment of classroom lectures and activities. To mitigate turnover among the best educators in your district, leaders must understand that one of the most significant factors leading to teacher job dissatisfaction and attrition is job-related physical and emotional stress.

Job Stress for Teachers

The concern of stress among teachers is growing within school districts across the country. Forty-six percent of teachers report that they experience daily stress according to a report by Gallup. As teachers face increased pressure to perform to state and parental standards, emotional stress is placing hazardous pressure on teachers, and leading to disengagement and turnover. According to a study conducted by the Georgia Department of Education, nearly half of all new teachers leave the field within the first five years, which in turns leaves schools­—and their students—at a critical disadvantage.

How to Keep Your Best Teachers

While benefits and salary are essential components of a viable compensation package, to put your schools in the best position to keep the best teachers, school leaders must work together to build a culture where intangibles include teacher support, , and engagement Such factors include mentorship, proper supervision, individual career development, and enabling a work-life balance.


The role of principals in mentoring teachers is especially critical for new hires. According to a report conducted by the Public Education Network, new teachers listed several characteristics of principals and school administrators they felt made a positive impact on their first year of teaching, primarily accessibility. New teachers reported feeling grateful for the support of principals who were available for questions, to discuss concerns, offer guidance, and help provide solutions to problems.

Superintendents should encourage all principals to take an active mentorship role during the new teacher onboarding process. Beyond the first year, teachers will still need the support of a mentor who can be a reliable, ongoing resource. Whether your schools assign dedicated mentors or teachers are encouraged to identify their own, creating a culture in which teachers support one another and have access to school leaders is critical to fostering teacher engagement and tenure.


Teachers want and need to feel that their leaders recognize their work quality. When principals properly supervise staff, they can praise teachers for their effective teaching styles, are more likely to make critical observances when teachers are experiencing signs of stress. Such indicators may include exhaustion, irritability, or a reduction in quality work. It can only be through the regular supervision of teacher progress that leaders can praise powerful practices and address concerns of stress before they exacerbate to the point where a teacher decides to seek out a different school (or career).

Principals should block out time in their schedules observe individual classrooms and teachers. Also, to stay visible and encourage a culture where teachers feel supported and supervised, principals should hold recurring meetings with an open format where teachers can ask questions, raise concerns, and share best practices with their principal’s involvement.

Professional Development

Nearly all professionals will say that continual professional development, skill improvement, and the opportunity for career growth and achievement are critical factors of their job satisfaction. Principals should not only conduct a job performance assessment for each teacher, but they should also be monitoring teachers’ progress throughout the year so that teachers feel school leaders are prioritizing their performance, and also so that there are no surprises during formal review sessions. School leaders should include teachers in the goal setting and assessment process. Online tools can help principals and teachers build and track such goals and outcomes.

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is not only a concern for employees of mega-corporations and sales executives who spend 300 days on the road each year. Teachers need to feel that their personal needs are recognized and addressed as well. When teachers feel that they have the time and space to take care of themselves emotionally and physically and that their school values their personal needs, they will feel less stressed, more satisfied with their career, and be more likely to remain in their position.


School districts face not only the possibility of new teachers changing career paths but seeking out other districts that better support and accommodate their teachers’ needs. By fostering a culture where teachers feel supported, they will feel less stressed and can focus on their critical role of developing their students into confident, academically successful long-term learners.

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