from Bill Hudson, head of school

“Everything that is good in this country, everything that is worthy in this country, everything that is beautiful in this country, begins with a teacher.”
—Kurt Russell, 2022 National Teacher of the Year.

My heart was full Friday afternoon as I looked across the south lawn during our annual Ice Cream Social. Actually, it was bursting, and I likened it to what happened to the heart of the Grinch at the end of the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas”! It was our largest social ever, and seeing students playing with one another and parents and teachers talking with each other on a beautiful late summer afternoon was exceptionally heartwarming. The school year is off to a fantastic start, one of the best in my 11 years at MPA.

This past week, I made the rounds of Lower School classrooms to welcome new students and reconnect with returning students. My visits also allowed me to witness our amazing teachers in action. Watching them is like watching an orchestra conductor who seemingly effortlessly moves from one movement to another while keeping each musician playing in concert with the other. Considering the ages of Lower School students, that is quite an accomplishment! MPA is indeed fortunate to have highly qualified, experienced, and skilled teachers who are also very kind and caring people.

At my nephew’s wedding last May, I caught up with a childhood friend of my nephew’s, a middle school teacher in a suburban school district outside of Charlotte, NC. When I asked him how things were going for him, he casually said he “did a favor for the school” by teaching a class with 70 students because the school district could not find enough qualified teachers. The class is so large that it is held in the cafeteria, and while he has a teaching assistant, the TA spends most of his time dealing with student behavior.

Unfortunately, his experience is not uncommon. Research published in August found that public school teacher shortages across the country are worsening in a number of states. The study also found that positions that are filled are with less qualified or uncertified candidates. The problem is not unique, though, to public schools. In a recent survey of heads of school in independent schools conducted by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), heads identified “finding and retaining qualified staff as the workplace expectations shift” as the top challenge independent schools are facing.

Generally speaking, teachers feel overworked and underpaid, according to a new nationally representative survey of K-12 public school teachers by the RAND Corporation. Many teachers feel overwhelmed and underappreciated and mourn a lack of trust and respect.

Fortunately, teacher attrition is very low at MPA compared to public schools but also to other independent schools. While it might seem otherwise, teacher departures last year reflect a natural ebb and flow, not the trends we see outside of MPA.

While there is definitely a competitive marketplace for teachers nationally and in the Twin Cities, we found no difficulty in hiring excellent teachers. This is partly because of the clarity of our mission, our outstanding reputation, and the school’s culture. I am overjoyed with our new faculty and staff and the experience, skills, and gifts they bring to MPA. I had the great fortune of spending three days with them in August, coming to know them better. We spent a great deal of time reflecting on their personal and professional values and those of MPA.

The MPA Board of Trustees and the school’s administration have made teacher recruitment, retention, and compensation a strategic priority of 2024ward, our strategic plan. The board retained ThreePoint Consulting to benchmark teacher compensation with local public schools and regional independent schools and assist with crafting a new mission-driven and competitive compensation philosophy and schedule. Strengthening teacher morale, satisfaction, and engagement are high on my list of goals for this school year.

MPA is fortunate to have a robust and well-established faculty culture that has been built and fostered over the years. This summer, I asked a few long-serving faculty members to describe what is unique about MPA teachers. Here are a few of their responses:

  • “MPA teachers are amazing colleagues and are among the most responsive individuals ever. They listen, make suggestions, offer support, laugh, cry, help carry workloads, raise each other’s children, and show up.”
  • “MPA teachers are compassionate about their students. They work hard to ensure that every child learns and often feel responsible for those who don’t succeed as readily. They are sensitive to the heavy burden of educating.”
  • “MPA teachers have the joy of learning at the heart of teaching at MPA. As a community, we recognize joy when others might only see daily occurrences. Tying a shoe? Losing a tooth? Joy. An opportunity for an Upper School student to lift a Lower School child up to get a drink? Offering a hand to a classmate who is hesitant to walk into the commons? Joy. We see it, because our students and families bring it into the building with them as a matter of course. We are lucky to be in an environment that recognizes the beauty of every day.”

I look forward to seeing you tonight at Curriculum Night. I am confident you will experience a little of what I see every day—exceptional human beings who are also exceptional teachers.

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkedin