(WGHP) — Since she was in the fifth grade, Rebecca Rogers knew she wanted to be a teacher.

So she worked hard to graduate from Meredith College in Raleigh and fulfilled that dream and began teaching at the high school level. In her second year, the pandemic broke out, and Rogers has since left teaching to do social media full time.  

She’s not the only one leaving the profession. A recent study by the MissionSquare Research Institute confirmed what other reporting has shown: among public sector workers, K-12 teachers have the highest rate of burnout.

But Rogers discovered the schools that are training the next generation of teachers to replace them are having a hard time filling their classes.

“The year after I graduated, my professors were telling us that they don’t have anyone enrolling because no one wants to go,” Rogers said.

Jacqueline Dozier is the director of student success within the UNC-Greensboro School of Education, which has been training teachers since 1891. Dozier says recruiting new teaching students is becoming harder each year.

UNCG refers to its groups of education students as “teams,” and Dozier says of their enrollment that they had, “four to five teams almost ten years ago with 25 or more people on it to now three teams…with about 15.”

That’s a drop from 100 to 125 students down to about 45. There are a lot of factors that go into that.

“I would say pay started as a leading factor because they took away increased pay for master’s degrees,” Dozier said.  “But now there are other expectations placed on teachers. As far as submitting their curriculum online ahead of the school year, most teachers tend to take their break over the summertime, but now you’re looking to use that time to work.”

Rogers agrees on the issue of pay.

“Teachers still make the same that they did 30 years ago, but the cost of living is so astronomically high now. How are they supposed to keep up? Any of my friends who are both teachers…can’t afford to have kids,” Rogers said. “I’m really fortunate that I have my husband who is an attorney. But if he wasn’t an attorney, we couldn’t afford to have kids.”

But Dozier says pay isn’t the reason most people choose to be teachers.

“For many people, to be a teacher is to value young lives and looking into those eyes and knowing today I’m going to do something that’s going to enlighten their minds and be a better person,” Dozier said. “Those are the things I hear from the students who stay committed to it.”

Still, Dozier says the state has to step up if it wants the number of teachers it needs.

“If the state is not looking at the career field with a level of respect, what does it say for the young parents out there?” she said.

But in the end, Jacqueline Dozier remains optimistic.

“Teaching is still one of the most rewarding career paths out there,” she said.

See more about the teacher crunch in this edition of the Buckley Report.