Creativity Retains Educators
December 31, 2022
by Kelly McCandless
For many parents, the return to career after starting a family is extremely difficult. Not only is childcare costly, but the pull to give of ourselves professionally can make us feel at odds with our desire to be the best possible parent. Thankfully, advances in technology and culture are making the nine to five traditional workdays less of a necessity. Remote work, split hours, shorter workweeks, and more are often offered by employers to entice and/or retain employees, allowing professionals to find more balance between their career and their personal lives. The classroom is one place we’re seeing this play out beautifully.
Jenna Appel and Heather McKenzie are both kindergarten teachers at Arrowhead Elementary School who have been job sharing their classroom for the last four years. Together they split up the week serving their class with a 60/40 split of their time. Jenna covers Monday through Wednesday and Heather finishes the week on Thursday and Friday, with both committed to the Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) that take place on Wednesdays. They rarely require a substitute since they can plan to cover for one another, and they stay in constant communication so they know exactly what’s going on with their students.
“I really missed the classroom but having two active kids at home and a husband with a very unpredictable work schedule made full-time employment much more difficult,” explained Heather. “Although I would have loved to have taught with small children at home, I didn’t feel I could devote enough time to what my students deserved in the classroom while providing and giving my own family what they needed. Job sharing has been a perfect solution.”
photo by Kelly McCandless
Jenna connected with Heather after her first child was born to discuss job sharing. “We worked out a proposal plan for our job share and presented it to our principal, Mrs. Meier,” she said.
Both teachers noted the importance of communication, trust, and support, explaining that from their classroom and throughout the school, everyone supports the arrangement. “I am not sure there is a day that has gone by where we have not texted, e-mailed, talked on the phone, or even saw each other in person to discuss what’s been going on in the classroom or what will be happening!” Heather shared.
What’s more, the arrangement led School District 2 to retain two excellent teachers who are truly devoted to their students. Without the flexibility job sharing affords, these women may not have been able to stay in the classroom. Principal Pam Meier’s willingness to work with them and ensure a strong, supportive environment makes a huge difference for all involved.
“Teaching is the most rewarding job and we both absolutely love our job! With our job share, we get the opportunity to continue doing the job we love, while also getting time at home with our kids,” Jenna said. “Life is busy, both at school and at home with young children. The job share allows us to give 100% to our students each and every day at school, as well as our families at home.”
Finally, the arrangement is beneficial for the students. Consistency, routine, and devoted educators result in better quality engagement with students. And, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one! Jenna noted that she and Heather talk daily to update each other on the day’s successes and challenges, as well as keep each other informed on student progress and behaviors. With two people observing, teaching, and guiding, students receive extraordinary support.
Kelly McCandless is a Billings native who loves a well-planned adventure, being outdoors when the weather is nice, historic fiction and hot coffee. She’s passionate about writing, cooking, education, travel and doing all of these things with her husband Ryan and their two incredible daughters
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