Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Romy Trigg-Smith, the Greenleaf Elementary principal. Greenleaf received a grant to increase teacher sustainability while implementing an ambitious dual language school redesign. Greenleaf partnered with The Teaching Well to provide 1:1 coaching and whole staff PD sessions around research-based strategies to support teacher wellness and sustainability and dramatically increased teacher retention into this school year.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Teacher Retention Grant?

The focus issue our site is seeking to address is both individual and systemic supports for Educator Well-Being. As a school, we believe if we create an environment that promotes the well-being and agency of our staff at all levels, they will be more effective with students and willing to be foundational partners for the work we plan to do for years to come.

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

Since 2014, Greenleaf had an average annual retention rate of 66%. As the former assistant principal, I noticed how each year, as we lost roughly ⅓ of our staff, our team would spend too much of our time rebuilding relationships and trust rather than refining effective pedagogy for students and events for families. I knew that in order for us to transform and be the best community school possible, we must find a systemic ways to retain our talent and build a educator environment that allowed the work to develop over years rather than restart each August.

How are you using the retention grant money?

We are using the retention grant money to partner with The Teaching Well, a local non-profit organization committed to supporting the well being of educators and schools. Through the support of the ED78 grant, we are able to provide our staff a three fold support structure for their well-being.

  1. Whole site PD on Stress Resilience, Healthy Communication and Managing Transferred Trauma,
  2. 1-1 Mentoring for 60% of our teachers during the work day to turn these new skills into actionable habits
  3. Research reports where teachers were able to share gaps in support and as a leader I could course correct in simple ways to ensure that their voices were heard.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

In our first year of the ED78 grant we increased our retention to 85%. Because of this, we were able to start the year with trust and go quickly into building off last year’s results. This year, as a leader I have seen an increase in collaboration, depth of ideas and our community’s ability to flow together.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

Outside Partnership with The Teaching Well has made a difference in our ability to support our teachers. Through this partnership, I am able to fully support my staff and keep my focus on accountability and student success. My teachers find it incredibly valuable to have a “third party” invested in their personal and professional growth while that outside resource is removed enough from the day to day community to allow for freedom of expression and comfort in addressing high needs.

Why is this work important?

This work is important because our students in East Oakland deserve a consistent, quality education and stable, reliable relationships. By prioritizing adult well-being, we ensure that we value and care for the individuals who create and develop these stable, reliable relationships. In order to be our best for kids, we need to be our best selves and that requires devoted time for and prioritization of self-care. When teachers stay connected to why they are in the work AND to their well-being, they are more reliable with kids and colleagues.