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COVID-19
& Teachers:
One Year Later

“It feels like scooping water out of a capsizing boat with a teacup.”

That’s how California teacher Amanda described what it’s like to be an educator in this tumultuous year. One year after the first school closings due to coronavirus, we asked 1,100 teachers what they are experiencing — and what they need to help their students come back strong.

A snapshot of
schools today

“Teaching this year has been like trying to catch butterflies as students move in and out of in-person learning. Just when we have supports in place and routines established, our school situation changes.”

A teacher from Oregon

Getting back to the classroom

More teachers are spending time in the classroom than they were in the fall, but most teachers are remote or splitting their time between remote and in-person teaching.

Chart about where students are learning

A quarter of teachers haven’t been back in the classroom at all this year, while over a third report their school has been open all year.

Chart about where students are learning

Hope on the rise (a little)

Compared to last fall, more teachers are reporting that they feel somewhat or very hopeful and optimistic; yet most teachers still describe themselves as anxious and overwhelmed.

Chart about where students are learning
teacher-distance-learning

The widening
equity gap

During the pandemic, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and students from low-income communities have faced disproportionate challenges.

Less access to in-person learning

Teachers at schools in low-income communities were more likely to report that they were providing all instruction via remote learning, compared to teachers at schools in more affluent communities.

The same was also true for teachers at schools that serve a majority of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students: more of these teachers reported being fully remote than teachers from mostly white schools.

Space Schools serving more than 50% Black, Latinx and Indigenous students

Space Schools serving less than 50% Black, Latinx and Indigenous students

Teachers at schools in low-income communities were also more likely to report that their school had never opened at all.

Less access to the internet

Over 25% of teachers at schools in low-income communities said that 10 or more of their students lacked reliable internet access, compared to 14% of teachers at schools in more affluent communities.

Number of students lacking reliable internet access

Teachers across all communities named lack of reliable internet access, family support responsibilities, and lack of social interaction with classmates and teachers as the top three challenges their students faced, but internet challenges were ranked highest among teachers from schools in low-income communities.

The tools teachers need

Teachers know what they need for their students to succeed in any learning environment

book-and-pencil

Top materials for
in-person instruction

  1. Basic supplies (19%)

  2. Technology (19%)

  3. Educational kits/games (16%)

  4. Books (13%)

  5. Cleaning supplies and PPE (13%)

book-and-pencil

Top needed materials for
online instruction

  1. Instructional technology to present their lessons (30%)

  2. Technology for students (25%)

  3. Basic supplies (16%)

  4. Educational kits/games (9%)

  5. Books (6%)

  6. Subject specific resources (6%)

book-and-pencil

Most requested professional development

  1. Online/remote learning instructional techniques (28%)

  2. Social emotional learning resources (14%)

  3. Mental health resources for myself/my students (14%)

  4. Online/remote learning technology (14%)

In their own words

We asked teachers what it was like to be a teacher right now and they had a lot to say!

“We’ve been on a roller coaster. It’s fast paced, terrifying, gut wrenching, heart palpitating, and not at all satisfying. Teachers feel alone and unsupported.”

—Elizabeth A teacher in Texas

“I’m exhausted and burned out. I may not return next year.”

a teacher in Virginia

“This is my 26th year of teaching... and by far the most challenging year. I have never worked as hard and have had as little to show for all the efforts and energies that
I am putting in.”

—Sujatha, a teacher in California

teacher-distance-learning

Getting back to the classroom

Teachers have mixed feelings on what it’s going to take to feel safe in the classroom again.

When to go back

Among teachers who are providing all instruction remotely, 46% say it would be safe to return when all teachers and staff are vaccinated, and 40% say they would prefer to return when infection rates are in line with public health official recommendations.

when it's safe to go back

Two-thirds of remote-only teachers say they feel somewhat or very unsafe returning at some point this school year.

when it's safe to go back

Overall, roughly a third of all teachers said they feel or would feel somewhat or very unsafe being in the classroom right now.

when it's safe to go back

Bright Spots

We also asked teachers if they’ve uncovered any bright spots during the pandemic. Most simply responded, “No,” yet some teachers have found a few silver linings.

“It’s been humbling having to learn something completely new and adapting my instruction. It’s giving me a chance to understand how my students feel when learning something that’s new and challenging for them.”

—Soraia, a teacher in Virginia

“I had a student who failed my class last year and he is excelling this year. During a one-on-one student/teacher conference, he said he was bullied last year. This year he can focus on his work from the safety and comfort of his home.”

A teacher in Tennessee

“I have an amazingly caring class and they take care of each other. I love my students. We're all just trying to get through this together, learn something, and have a good year, in spite of COVID-19. I think we're succeeding.”

—Cheyanne, a teacher in Missouri

book-and-pencil

We continue to support teachers
through the COVID-19 pandemic.

See what thousands of teachers need this school year

Explore projects

Methodology

A survey was emailed to 12,756 total teachers who have posted a project to DonorsChoose since January 2019. This survey’s responses were used to inform the data on this report. There was a response rate of 9% (1,184 responses). Surveys were completed online between January 28 and February 2, 2021, and respondents received a $10 DonorsChoose gift card incentive to complete the survey. Teachers from every state participated.

About DonorsChoose

DonorsChoose is the leading way to give to public schools. Since 2000, 4.7 million people and partners have contributed nearly $1 billion to support 1.8 million teacher requests for student resources and experiences. As the most trusted crowdfunding platform for teachers, donors, and district administrators alike, DonorsChoose vets each request, ships the funded resources directly to the teacher, and provides thank yous and reporting to donors and school leaders. Charity Navigator and GuideStar have awarded DonorsChoose, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, their highest ratings for transparency and accountability.