New research study to investigate – and address – teacher stress


Even before the pandemic, stress and poor mental well-being were the main factors pushing school teachers out of the classroom – not to mention the # 1 reason for the current teacher shortage in the country. , according to Neag School teacher Lisa Sanetti.

When it comes to teacher stress, COVID-19 has only done further damage. In surveys conducted during the pandemic, Sanetti says, 60% of teachers across the country said they enjoyed their work less, and a quarter said they were “doing well” or “struggling to get by. “financially.

“Decades of ignorance of the poor mental well-being of teachers, combined with the stressors of COVID-19, pose significant short- and long-term threats to the supply of teachers in the United States,” said Sanetti. “The implications for students, families, districts and our nation could be dire.”

Thanks to newly renewed federal funding for a Total worker health® Center of Excellence – a collaborative program between UConn Health, UConn Storrs and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell – Sanetti, co-PI and UConn Health Associate Professor Jennifer Cavallari, UConn Health Assistant Professor Alicia Dugan, and their colleagues will conduct a study five-year program specifically focused on improving the mental well-being of teachers. The long-term goal is to increase the retention of teachers in the field.

“Decades of ignorance of the poor mental well-being of teachers combined with the stressors of COVID-19 pose significant short and long-term threats to the supply of teachers in the United States” – Professor Lisa Sanetti

Funding, provided by Associate Professor of Medicine William S. Shaw, chief of UConn’s division of occupational and environmental medicine, comes from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH finances 10 different Total worker health National centers of excellence.

The New England Center for Workplace Health Promotion (CPH-NEW) is a UConn and UMass-Lowell-based center. Its research objective, according to the Centre’s website, is “to assess the feasibility, effectiveness and economic benefits of integrating occupational health and safety with health promotion interventions to improve performance. employee health ”.

Partnership with school districts

One of three new projects CPH-NEW, the Total Teacher Health Research Study will involve anonymously interviewing over 1,600 teachers in select school districts across the country and holding focus groups to identify the factors affecting the mental health and well-being of teachers.

Sanetti, a school mental health expert, is part of an interdisciplinary team of experts in industrial / organizational psychology and occupational epidemiology, who will seek to partner with three Connecticut school districts to implement the program. Participatory Healthy Workplace (HWPP) from CPH-NEW. , a research-based approach to improving health and well-being at work.

Working closely with designated groups of teachers and administrators at two elementary schools in each of these three school districts, the researchers will guide teachers in identifying their most intense stressors, their causes and interventions. possible.

The ultimate goal will be to implement interventions for these teachers throughout the school year in order to reduce their stressors and improve their mental well-being. Each intervention will be designed to address specific factors that the researchers found to have a negative influence on the mental health of teachers. The HWPP, the researchers note, prioritizes changes in the way work is done over personal behavior changes.

The following year, says Sanetti, the team will not only re-engage in this process to address additional factors, but will also seek to increase “the capacity within each school to continue to build their school as a healthy workplace.” in the future.

“CPH-NEW has demonstrated the success of HWPP in providing supervisors and workers with the processes and skills necessary to implement workplace changes that improve worker well-being,” Cavallari said. “We are looking forward to working with the teachers. “

Three schools in two Connecticut districts were involved in piloting the HWPP. Teachers in each school identified unique stressors, and the HWPP process led to site-specific interventions that began to reduce stressors and improve working conditions.

“We are indebted to the teachers and school principals who participated in the pilot studies. They provided essential information on how the HWPP can be adapted to fit school routines and confirmed that one-size-fits-all approaches are unlikely to work, ”said Sanetti. “We hope to gain a better understanding of the mental well-being of teachers and the factors that influence teacher stress, and how to reduce them in a feasible way. “

The researchers hope that adapting the implementation of the HWPP will provide a vital avenue for improving teachers’ work-life balance, reducing their level of burnout, and positively involving them in their work.

To learn more about how to be a partner of Total Teacher Health School District, contact Lisa Sanetti in the Department of Educational Psychology at the Neag School.


Paul N. Strickland