Why stress causes teachers to leave the classroom

Desks sit empty as a teacher talks in front of a screen.
Fourth grade teacher Kelly Brant stands in her classroom as she talks to her students who were learning remotely Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 at Park Brook Elementary School in Brooklyn Park. While prekindergarten through second grade students returned for in-person learning, the older elementary students will return to the building for class in February.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Stress is pushing public educators out of their field early, according to a recent study by the Rand Corp.

More than a year after schools were forced to close to in-person learning because of COVID-19, teachers are struggling to cope with the added pressures and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. 

Nearly 1,000 former public school teachers ranked stress above pay as the reason for leaving their positions. Most of the teachers surveyed either resigned, took early retirement or an unpaid leave of absence — and some say they won’t return.

Tuesday, MPR News host Kerri Miller talked to two experts about teacher stress, recruiting new teachers and what the future holds. 


  • Bernie Burnham is the vice president of Education Minnesota. She has 14 years of experience as an elementary school teacher, spent nine years in Duluth public schools and served as president of the Duluth Federation of Teachers. 

  • Clay Cook is a professor and one of the core faculty in the Institute of Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health at the University of Minnesota. He is also the John W. and Nancy E. Peyton faculty fellow in Child and Adolescent Wellbeing.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.