Threats and burnout prompted teacher of the year to quit education post
Former Minnesota Teacher of the Year and current elementary school principal Ryan Vernosh pointed to the depth of stress levels and burnout last week when he resigned from an education board. State, then explained why he did it on social media.
On Twitter on Friday, Vernosh posted his resignation letter, citing pressure from education during COVID and increased threats to his safety over pandemic protocols at his school, Brimhall Elementary in Roseville, for the resignation. But his main reason for quitting, he said, was his own sanity.
The following is a transcript of the conversation, edited slightly for clarity. To listen to the full interview, use the audio player above.
You said in your letter that as principal at this time, âMy days and nights are spent in educational triage. What do you mean?
What I mean by that is that my typical role as a principal is to coach teachers to help students and improve teaching practices. Right now, due to a huge staff shortage and the increased needs we see in our students, most of my time is spent less on helping teaching run and more on making sure our students feel safe, that our students are getting their needs met, and trying to connect students and families to mental health resources that we may have in school, but also what may be available outside of school.
Are you still teaching?
Well, I am a substitute teacher. I actually gave music lessons a bit yesterday and I’ll be doing a bit of fifth and kindergarten this morning.
It is not only unique to our district. It is something that is happening all over the districts. And I’m very fortunate to serve in a district that has a very strong plan in place to support directors. [and] teachers. And it is still extremely difficult – at the limit incredibly difficult – to navigate on a daily basis.
I am assuming that you are also experiencing staff shortages in your school?
Oh, yes we are. There are simply not enough people capable of replacing the teachers. And when we have our own staff who get sick, who have their own children, who [have] daycares which, sadly, are being quarantined due to the increased spread of COVID, making things even more difficult. And teachers deserve to have their own days, too.
Because teachers are people, [they] are humans first. And we need to make sure that we respect that time – to which they are entitled – are supported when they need their own time to meet their own mental health needs.
You also mentioned the threats to your safety regarding the pandemic protocols in place at school. Give us an idea of ââthe vitriolic you experienced.
It’s been a lot – based on having masks in our school. And for the position I take to ensure that each of our students is seen for their beautifully diverse beauty – especially our gender diversity and to ensure that people refer to our students with their correct pronouns.
I received threats to kill myself, threats to be hanged by the military court. [I have] I was told they were watching me on social media and things like that. And it comes and goes.
There have been several stories written about me through various – I hesitate to even call them media – across the country that when one of them is published in a revamped story I noticed a significant increase of those kinds of hateful messages that come in my inbox.
What made you decide to open [up] about all these challenges now?
Because I think it’s a reality that a lot of people face every day, especially when it comes to mental health, and I think there is still a stigma attached to talking about mental health and the impacts it has. on us.
So I wanted to seize the opportunity of the platform I had, by resigning from the [Professional Educator Licensing and Standards] board, and open and share that. I know for me seeing other people talking openly about their own depression, anxiety and mental health really gave me the courage to be able to do this on my own in the hope that other people can. also feel free to talk about these challenges.
Because by talking about it, we make it less frightening. As we talk about it, we start to say, âIt’s okay to say you’re not well. And then get the help you need to feel better. The same way we would if we had a broken leg, a sprained ankle, or a migraine. It’s no different from that. And I think we need to start having these conversations.
To listen to the full interview, use the audio player above.
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