How keeping experienced teachers in Mehlville School District impacts school culture

How keeping experienced teachers in Mehlville School District impacts school culture
Posted on 03/14/2023
OES kindergarten teacher Peggy EversDuring the past few years, we have experienced an increase in teachers leaving the district within their first five years. They sometimes leave for teaching positions in higher-paying districts. Other times, they are leaving the teaching profession altogether.

The Mehlville Board of Education is asking voters to consider Proposition E to help reverse this trend. Keeping teachers in Mehlville School District long-term is important to build and maintain a positive school culture. It will also help the district avoid anticipated teacher shortages due to more competition for a smaller pool of certified educators. Prop E is on the ballot on April 4.


The first few years of teaching are challenging. 
Mehlville School District has some outstanding young teachers, but new educators can face a lot of challenges during their first few years. Oakville Elementary School kindergarten teacher Peggy Evers has been in education for 30 years, including the last 25 in Mehlville School District.

“When I first began teaching, the challenge I had was figuring out how to meet the needs of every student,” said Evers. “We have students coming to us with different social-emotional and educational needs. You’re trying to help the children in every way you can.” 
OES kindergarten teacher Peggy Evers
Image: Oakville Elementary School kindergarten teacher Peggy Evers watches as a student completes a math activity.

Bernard Middle School Academy teacher Jefferson Stephens, the 2019-2020 District Teacher of the Year, says the first few years can easily become overwhelming for new teachers because of all of the new information and skills they’re constantly learning. 

“During your first few years, you’re trying to find your voice, determine what your students need and get to know them, figure out how to work with your colleagues and develop strategies to reteach lessons when you need to reteach them,” said Stephens.

Stephens believes the district does a great job of using professional development to provide new teachers with the skills they need to help their students be successful.

“Other districts we’ve collaborated with are learning from us,” said Stephens. “We’re modeling what other schools should be doing. It’s important that teachers creating that model stay so we can continue to set the example for others, instead of having to constantly replace those teachers.”
Bernard Middle Academy teacher Jefferson Stephens
Image: Bernard Middle School Academy teacher discusses a writing assignment with a student.

In addition to professional development, teachers gain knowledge and skills from different situations they’re placed in throughout the years.

The neat thing about teaching is that every day and every year is different,” said Evers. “Over the years, you have so many different types of students. Eventually, similar situations will begin to arise, and you have the experience to know how to work with that child to help them succeed.”

Experienced teachers can help new teachers find their stride.
When Stephens began teaching, he had experienced teachers he leaned on for advice. Now he’s become someone that new teachers at Bernard can look to as they begin their careers.

“Mentor teachers have a positive energy that can be infectious,” said Stephens. “If you walk into a building and the majority of the staff has been there for a long time, you’re going to realize it’s an awesome environment to be in.”

Having low turnover rates can have a positive impact on school culture.
While we have seen an increase in the number of teachers leaving within their first few years of teaching, Evers believes that once teachers establish themselves in Mehlville School District, they don’t want to leave because of our incredible community.

“The teachers who’ve been here awhile want to stay because they’ve gotten to know the families, and the families are wonderful,” said Evers. “It takes a while to make those relationships, so some of the new teachers haven’t had the experience yet. Once you’re in Mehlville for a while, you realize this is a community that will do anything for you.”

“Great teachers can make the biggest impact on kids’ lives, and once we have a great teacher, we want to keep them,” said Stephens. “Parents will talk in the community about the teachers they want their kids to have. When you hear about those conversations, it hits home as far as the difference you’re making.” 

Prop E will help Mehlville School District attract and retain talented teachers. 
The number of college students pursuing a career in education has sharply decreased during the past few decades. This has created an increased demand for a shrinking pool of educators. 

As teachers retire or resign, they can be difficult to replace because many surrounding districts offer higher pay for the same level of experience. In the 2022-2023 school year, Mehlville School District is paying its starting teacher $1,938 less than the average starting teacher salary in other county districts. At higher levels of experience, Mehlville’s teacher salaries trail the county average by $7,585. 

We are already experiencing a shortage of candidates for math and science teaching positions due to specific certifications required to teach those courses. We are also beginning to see a decrease in candidates at the elementary level. Additionally, our transportation, facilities and school food staff, which are important to keep our schools operating, have been operating shorthanded throughout this school year, leaving staff in those departments overworked from constantly filling in the gaps for our students. 
Prop E
Prop E is on the ballot on April 4. If passed, it would provide all teachers with competitive pay compared to other districts in St. Louis County. Prop E would also make wages for custodians, school food technicians, bus drivers, secretaries and other support staff positions more competitive with both other districts and private sector companies hiring for similar positions. Visit the Prop E section of our website to learn more.

The Mehlville School District strictly prohibits discrimination and harassment against employees, students or others on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or sex including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity and other characteristics protected by law. The following individuals have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: contact Adam Smith at 314-467-5006 or [email protected].