Audit: Utah keeps teachers overall, but first 5 years tricky

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Tiffany Hatch, a first grade teacher at South Clearfield Elementary in Clearfield, Utah, teaches math to her class on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Hatch earned her teaching degree through Weber State University’s teacher assistant pathway to teaching. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tiffany Hatch isn’t quite a unicorn, but a new state audit suggests she’s done something nearly half of her teaching cohort hasn’t: stuck it out in the profession.

While the audit shows that in 2017 Utah teacher retention was the highest nationally, the turnover of Utah teachers during their first five years on the job exceeds 40%, the Deseret News reported.

“This is higher than national averages which range between 17% and 46%,” said the audit released recently by the Office of Legislative Auditor General.

Hatch is in her sixth year of teaching after graduating from Weber State University. The mother of five children said she decided to become a teacher one morning after dropping her kids off at school.

It was a rainy day, she recalled. After telling her kids goodbye and that she loved them, she lingered to watch them walk into their school.

“I thought, ‘I hope those teachers are being so good to my kids because they will be with them way more today than I will,’” she said.

“I thought, ‘I hope they don’t just teach my children but build up their self-esteem.’ That’s what I wish for as a mom and that’s what I could do if I were a teacher.”

At the time, Hatch didn’t have an undergraduate degree, so she decided to apply for a job in a school office.

“A principal who was in one of my interviews knew that a school was looking for a teacher assistant and said, ‘Oh, she would be really good,’” Hatch said.

She got the job, which entailed heading up the school’s before-school program. She’s also served as a kindergarten tutor and assisted elementary school teachers that taught fifth and second grade.

“In doing that, I just realized how much I loved it,” she said.

As Hatch explored university teaching programs, she learned about Weber State University’s Teacher Assistant Pathway to Teaching program, or TAPT for short.

The program provides teacher assistants financial support and mentoring to become fully licensed teachers. It is supported with state funds but also by private donors and businesses.

Hatch, now a first grade teacher at South Clearfield Elementary School, calls the program “a gift on a silver platter.”

The TAPT program covered her tuition and provided academic and emotional support, which was a “win-win,” she said.

“They would bring in people to talk about classroom management or they would bring in people to talk about ethics, or they would bring in different people from the university, and it was just awesome. So I think that gives a huge leg up to anybody,” she said.

The TAPT program helps existing school employees advance in their careers. It focuses on a population of people who already work in schools and are familiar with classroom conditions.

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