MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – The pandemic forced many teachers to take on more responsibility throughout its duration. Some teachers pushed back through lawsuits, alleging a denial of due process when their hours and workload increased. Others, chose instead, to quietly leave the profession entirely.

“Everybody’s worn out,” Alabama Education Association District 3 Director Beverly Sims said.

Sims’ district includes Madison City and Madison County, but the feeling of exhaustion among educators stretches statewide.

“I have been in education for 25 years, I’ve been AEA 13 years. This is the largest number I’ve seen, the past two years is the largest number of retirees I’ve seen since I’ve been in education,” Sims said.

It is not exclusive to veteran teachers, however. The Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services’ latest numbers reports 50% of all first-time teachers in the state are leaving their job within three years. This is 6% higher than the nationwide 5-year average.

“It was bad enough on veteran teachers that already had their act together, knew what they were doing, and it was stressful for them; so you can imagine a new teacher coming in,” she said.

On top of the physical exhaustion, she said the lack of state help when it came to implementing uniform COVID protocols opened the door for individual district and educator criticism from those not in the field, leading to a stress on emotions too.

“I personally don’t feel like there was enough support and guidance from the state level. They left it all up to the local systems to make these decisions,” Sims said.

All of these factors, making the pay no longer worth the pains.

“Not only do I see teachers leaving the classroom, I see our support personnel who have been with us for 10, 15, 20 years saying, ‘I don’t have to do this anymore for this little amount of money.'”

Even with the latest passage of a record-high state education budget of more than $8 billion, including a 4% pay increase for educators, Sims said it is not enough.

“It’s not just about pay. It’s also about providing enough money for resources in a school like more teachers, more technology,” she said.

She did add though, that it was a step in the right direction.

“It helps them feel appreciated when the legislature does give them a boost in pay, so I’m hoping for the next few years we’re going to see a boost in pay every year and that will help us retain some of our teachers.”