Teach Plus California Teacher Leaders Release New Framework for Districts to Address Educator Needs

Teach Plus California Teacher Leaders Release New Framework for Districts to Address Educator Needs

To Build Schoolwide Capacity, Teachers Call on Schools and Districts to Focus on Educator Safety; Reasonable Workload; Health and Well-being, Community and Belonging, and Development and Growth

June 23, 2022, Sacramento, CA—The two years of the pandemic have placed numerous stressors on teachers, exacerbating existing systemic challenges and leading to educator burnout and attrition. To build healthier, more positive schools, and help improve teacher retention and student engagement and achievement, Teach Plus California teacher leaders have released a new framework, “A Hierarchy of Educators’ Needs: A Guide for Fostering Empathetic Schools,” that identifies five needs district leaders must address to support teacher wellness and increase schoolwide capacity. These needs, each building on the previous one, are Safety, Reasonable Workload, Health and Well-being, Community and Belonging, and Development and Growth.

“Teachers know firsthand that students’ success depends on meeting the needs of everyone involved, including the adults who are an integral part of the school community. The Hierarchy of Educators’ Needs provides tangible guidance for districts in implementing teachers’ priorities around their social-emotional needs and in building healthier and more supportive schools that are best positioned to serve students,” said Sarah Lillis, Teach Plus California Executive Director.

“The effects of the pandemic and increases in school violence have put already-stressed educators on the frontline of a national crisis, and left many struggling. Many of us are left feeling demoralized, burned out, and unequipped to support student needs. Now is the right time to create safe and supportive learning environments for adults as well as children. We have identified critical areas of educator needs and created a tool for leaders to use. We hope this tool will help to improve educator wellness and guide the implementation of more equitable environments for all,“ said Teach Plus Senior Policy Fellow Jalina R. Chatzipantsios, career & technical education teacher at Florence Nightingale Middle school in Los Angeles and one of the framework’s authors.

Based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and its application to students, the Hierarchy of Educators’ Needs centers community care and social emotional learning for all in its approach. The needs are arranged as a pyramid to illustrate that each need builds upon the previous one.

  1. Safety; Ensure educators feel safe and secure on their campus.
  2. Reasonable Workload; Ensure educator workloads are manageable and sustainable.
  3. Health and Well-being; Nurture educator social-emotional and mental health, and positive well-being.
  4. Community and Belonging; Promote community and positive culture for all school stakeholders.
  5. Development and Growth; Recognize and support educators as expert practitioners and leaders.

For each of the five needs on the hierarchy, the teachers lay out a set of recommended solutions and considerations for districts before engaging in specific discussion, all aimed at achieving a more empathetic school culture and climate. The teachers also provide a set of recommendations for school and district leaders on how to use the framework. The recommendations are:

  1. District and school leaders should create explicit mechanisms for gathering data and reflections from staff about key elements in the Hierarchy.
  2. District and school leaders should build strategies and investments into school and district plans to support teacher well-being by prioritizing the Hierarchy in district goals and budgetary decisions.
  3. School leaders should ensure that they have established a climate and authentic opportunities for constructive conversations between administration and staff.

“As we worked on better understanding the social and emotional needs of our teachers, it became very clear to us that we must address the issues we lay out in the Hierarchy of Needs. That is the only way to provide our students with the academic and social environment they deserve.” said Teach Plus Policy Fellow Nestor Henrriquez, an English Language Development (ELD) teacher at Merced High School in Merced and one of the framework’s authors.

About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has developed thousands of teacher leaders across the country to exercise their leadership in shaping education policy and improving teaching and learning, to create an education system driven by access and excellence for all. Teachplus.org


Contact: Anya Grottel-Brown, agrottelbrown@teachplus.org, 917-902-5902