We are well aware of the need to support our learners’ mental health as part of the learning environment. But how well are we supporting the mental health and well-being of our educators?

It turns out, not very well. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 44% of K-12 teachers report feeling burned out at work always or very often. In fact, K-12 educators are the most burnt-out workers, when compared to all other professions (Gallup 2022). The National Education Association (2022) found that 67% of educators surveyed believe that burnout is a “very serious” issue, while 90% of respondents found it to be a “somewhat serious” issue.

While most of these statistics were collected during the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of teacher well-being is still pressing. Anecdotally, teachers are reporting higher workloads, larger class sizes, increased expectations for them and their students, less support, and higher levels of external pressure from parents, school boards, and public policy. According to the 2023 State of the American Teacher Survey (Doan et al., 2023), the top sources of job-related stress were managing student behavior, supporting academic learning, and administrative work. All these factors continue to contribute to teacher shortages across the U.S. and around the world. Nearly 60,000 U.S. educators quit their jobs in January 2024 alone, the highest point since the beginning of the pandemic (Statista, 2024).

The Leichtman Burnout Scale (Leichtman, 2022) provides a four-level framework for understanding burnout in educators and how to support teachers in each level.

Support Strategies
Level 1: Passionate but Overwhelmed Low self-efficacy

Negative coping strategies (unhealthy habits)

Limited hobbies/passions outside of work

Positive coping strategies


Supportive relationships

Healthy problem-solving

Level 2: Overwhelmed and Becoming Cynical High stress levels

Irritated easily

Bringing work home but not completing it

Guilt and feeling like there is not enough time


Support managing responsibilities

Level 3: Cynical and Approaching Exhaustion Isolation (in and out of work)

Feelings of paranoia

Feeling unable to meet goals

Refusing to engage in professional development

Role/workload reduction

Saying no

Support prioritizing and delegating

Formal mental health support

Level 4: Complete Exhaustion and Breakdown Feeling exhausted every day

Increased absenteeism/ illness

Lack of optimism for career and personal life

Setting priorities for work and life

Purpose seeking

Formal mental health support


Many teacher burnout recommendations focus on intervention at the individual level, placing the onus for burnout recovery on the teacher. While these interventions are helpful and necessary, many of the stressors causing burnout are systemic. Teachers are tired of merely being told to “remember their why” or to engage in self-care. Suggestions like setting better boundaries, saying no to additional tasks, and not taking work home only go so far when expectations from school leaders give a conflicting message. School leaders can focus on actions that address the systemic factors and create a culture of support for teachers and other staff.

Many schools have been improving the mental health and well-being supports for teachers, with more teachers reporting access to at least one type of support in 2023 than in the prior year (Doan et al., 2023). These include supports like an employee assistance program, mental health services, and wellness activities. However, only about half of teachers feel these supports are adequate. They cite lack of class coverage and paid leave to access support as key barriers leading to inadequate support. In addition, only 10% of teachers stated that school leaders provide explicit, sincere encouragement to use time off for mental health (Doan et al., 2023).

Hughes et al. (2015) identified three critical areas of administrative support that are effective in reducing teacher stress and retaining teachers. First is emotional support, where administrators have reasonable expectations for teachers, build trust, and create a supportive environment. Next is environmental support, where administrators effectively address challenging behavior and safety issues. Instructional support is the third, where administrators provide teachers with high quality growth and development opportunities and sufficient resources, while creating opportunities for teachers to provide input into decisions affecting them.

Teachers report that strong, positive relationships with other teachers (67%), supportive school leaders (40%), autonomy over instructional decisions (39%), and frequent collaboration opportunities (36%) are key aspects of their school environment that support their well-being (Doan et al., 2023). School leaders are in a unique position to create an educational environment where teachers feel genuinely supported, in both words and action. Sustainable educator well-being lies in comprehensive, school-wide approaches.

School leaders can focus on several key areas to create this culture of support:

Authentic Recognition and Appreciation
Creating an environment where teachers feel valued and appreciated goes beyond the occasional “thank you” or morale boosting activity. Implement strategies to consistently recognize the effort and achievement of teachers and other staff. Provide positive and specific feedback often, share notes of appreciation, and celebrate personal and professional milestones. Find out how each person likes to receive recognition to personalize the process and ensure it is meaningful to the recipient.

Support Networks
Feeling connected to colleagues reduces feelings of isolation and stress. Create opportunities for strong, collaborative relationships to develop among educators, such as mentorship programs, professional learning communities, and peer support groups. Offer ways for teachers to share resources and strategies for pain points, such as classroom management or engaging instructional approaches. New teachers to the profession or to the school can benefit from formalized teacher buddy systems to help them acclimate.

Personalized Professional Learning
Professional growth is a crucial aspect of job satisfaction for teachers. Too often, schools rely on whole-group professional learning that doesn’t meet the needs or interests of many educators. Offer a range of professional learning opportunities tailored to teachers’ interests and career goals. Provide options for seasoned educators that is differentiated from offerings for early-career teachers. Leverage the expertise in your building by encouraging teachers to lead professional development sessions in their areas of interest.

Streamlined Administrative Processes
Reducing the administrative burden on teachers can reduce stress and provide more work/life balance. Examine administrative expectations to streamline processes or simplify reporting requirements. Involve teachers to identify and eliminate unnecessary tasks, or to make adjustments for improved efficiency. Encourage the use of collaborative planning tools and resource sharing to reduce the time spent on lesson planning. Provide efficient communication tools to make communication with colleagues, students and families as easy as possible.

Work/Life Balance
Encouraging a healthy work/life balance is essential for healing burnout. Implement policies that help establish clear boundaries between work and home life, such as discouraging emails outside of work hours, offering flexible scheduling, or providing time off for rejuvenation. Offer wellness programs or other activities that promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being and encourage self-care. Acknowledge the value and importance of personal time and hobbies outside of work.  


The stark figures from recent surveys and studies are a powerful reminder that the mental health and well-being of educators needs to be a top priority. Creating a culture of support that effectively addresses teacher burnout requires more than superficial approaches; it demands a committed effort of systemic change. This culture shift can help heal educators and provide a pathway to improved working conditions as we work to retain teachers and encourage others to enter the profession. 


Gallup. (2022, June 13). K-12 workers have highest burnout rate in U.S. https://news.gallup.com/poll/393500/workers-highest-burnout-rate.aspx 

Hughes, A. L., Matt, J. J., & O’Reilly, F. L. (2015). Principal support is imperative to the retention of teachers in hard-to-staff schools. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 3(1), 129-134. 

Leichtman, K. (2022, May 26). How burned out are you? A scale for teachers. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-burned-out-are-you-scale-teachers/ 

National Education Association. (2022, February 1). NEA survey: Massive staff shortages in schools leading to educator burnout; alarming number of educators indicating they plan to leave profession. https://www.nea.org/about-nea/media-center/press-releases/nea-survey-massive-staff-shortages-schools-leading-educator-burnout-alarming-number-educators 

Doan, S., Steiner, E. D., Pandey, R., & Woo, A. (2023, June). Teacher well-being and intentions to leave: Findings from the 2023 State of the American Teacher Survey. RAND Corporation: Santa Monica, CA.  

Statista. (2024, March). Number of quits among teachers and other educational staff from January 2020 to January 2024. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1316372/number-quits-educational-staff-seasonally-adjusted/  


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Holly King, Ph.D.
Holly King, Ph.D.,  is senior vice president of Evaluation Services for Cognia, overseeing all aspects of accreditation and certification services offered to PK-12 schools around the world. Over her career, Dr. King has directed education programs in private, non-profit, and school district settings.  She has held adjunct faculty positions in Early Childhood Education for eight years at three colleges, teaching adult learners in online and face-to-face settings, and is an adjunct faculty member for the Master’s in Organizational Leadership program at the University of Denver. She also serves as Affiliate Research Faculty for Antioch University's Ph.D. in Leadership and Change in quantitative methods. To her leadership roles, Dr. King brings expertise in best practices in early learning and K-6 education; strategic planning; leadership development; quality assurance; data analysis; health, mental health, and disabilities services; family support; and professional development and coaching. Dr. King holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, as well as master degrees in Early Childhood Education and Leadership and Change.