Media Tip Sheet: Special education teacher shortage is at a critical level

January 26, 2023

The special education teacher shortage is at such a critical level, it’s the biggest issue facing the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

GW's Beth Tuckwiller

If you are looking for an expert to speak specifically about teacher shortages and burnout, please consider Dr. Beth Tuckwiller, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Special Education and Disability Studies at the George Washington University.

Dr. Tuckwiller argues we need more teacher input, involvement and centering to combat teacher burnout--as opposed to relying on declarations and soundbites from those "who feel entitled to comment on teachers issues," but are not themselves teachers or have teaching experience. She also argues, when we do ask teachers (e.g. through teachers' union surveys), we're often not asking the right questions.

Dr. Tuckwiller previously taught high school students with emotional, behavioral and learning differences and coordinated school-based programming designed to enhance student mental health, wellbeing and academic outcomes. Her research investigates schools as complex systems in which individual, interpersonal and sociopolitical factors interact to affect experiences of individual and collective wellbeing. 

“We must confront fundamental misattribution errors that have become part of our cultural narrative. We are far overdue in naming teacher burnout as a system-level issue rather than 'just' an individual teacher issue. We have a responsibility to challenge structures that burn teachers out and prioritize cultures of care that honor teachers as humans, not merely human resources. And if we collectively do not, we must attribute the blame for a burned-out teacher workforce, shrinking at an alarming rate, to the accurate cause: all of us who did not speak up and demand more of our leaders, school systems, politicians, and ourselves for America’s teachers.”

If you are looking for context on this matter or would like to speak with Professor Tuckwiller, please contact GW Media Relations at [email protected] or 202-994-6460.