School Leaders Can Influence Teachers’ Job Satisfaction and Retention

Leader 2 Leader Blog, Industry,

By: Cynthia Mergaert, M.Ed, Vice Principal, The Villages Charter Middle School

Florida school leaders need leadership strategies that focus on retaining teachers. When
reviewing an article by Goldring et al. (2014) that broke down the 2011-12 Schools and Staffing
Survey and Teacher Follow-up Survey from 2012-13, I was astounded to find out that 250,000
teachers left their teaching positions between 2000 and 2013. Goldring pointed out that 50% of
the teachers who exited the teaching profession sought out better working conditions and

Florida, school leaders have struggled to fill critical shortage areas. In the 2021-22
Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) Identification of Critical Shortage Areas (ICSA)
report, 45,975 teachers taught a course out-of-field, and 3,663 teacher vacancies were reported
at the start of the 2020-21 school year. FLDOE indicated in the 2022-23 ICSA report that
out-of-field teachers taught 59,117 courses, with 4,489 teacher vacancies during the 2021-22
school year (FLDOE, 2022). The levity of statistics denoting the number of teacher vacancies
and courses being taught out-of-field led to my desire to uncover the intrinsic and extrinsic
motivators that influence teachers’ job satisfaction and job retention. As a Florida secondary
school leader, I was determined to find the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators Florida secondary
teachers found the most influential in promoting their job satisfaction. I realized if I understood
the primary motivators driving teachers to continue in the education field, I could support the
teachers in my school organization and develop the culture needed to retain quality educators.

Previous Research

When researching literature regarding teacher attrition and retention, I found several
articles focused on events, such as professional development, that teachers found motivating in
their school environment. Articles discussing research studies by Albright et al. (2017),
Wronowski (2018), and Okeke and Mtyuda (2017) found professional development events
inspired teachers’ motivation to continue in the education field. Some of the important factors
uncovered in their research included tailoring the professional development around the
teachers' needs, shared discussions, and collaboration stemming from participation in
professional development events that promoted teachers’ job satisfaction and retention.
Considering the factors and events promoting teacher motivation found in the literature, I
conducted a qualitative descriptive study to uncover the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators
influencing Florida secondary teachers’ job satisfaction. I gained lived experiences from Florida
secondary teachers through a survey and virtual interviews that unlocked a new view of the
intrinsic and extrinsic motivators guiding teachers' desire to continue teaching.
Articles by Albright et al. (2017), Okeke and Mtyuda (2017), and Wronowski (2018)
focused on events creating motivators. However, the participant responses to my survey and
virtual interviews revealed events, such as professional development, were a catalyst for the
positive interactions created during the events that influenced teachers’ job satisfaction. Leaders
who schedule professional development without considering the needs of the teachers may lack
opportunities for positive interactions to grow and flourish during the event. Leaders must be
very intentional when scheduling professional development to ensure the event catalyzes
positive interactions promoting intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that elevate the teachers’ job
satisfaction and retention in the school organization.

Structuring Professional Development

How do school leaders structure professional development sessions that promote
positive interactions? Leaders must be engaged in the professional development process from
the beginning to the end to cultivate substantive professional development that drives positive
interactions and teacher motivation. Using the following suggestions as a guide to building
professional development sessions will aid school leaders in facilitating collaborative
engagement that fosters positive interactions.

1. Create a survey to determine:
a. The teachers’ current needs.
i. Content area
ii. Classroom management
iii. Behavior management
iv. Mental and social well-being management
v. Other (An open response for teachers to offer suggestions)
b. The platform teachers would prefer to use.
i. Live webinar
ii. Recorded webinar
iii. In-person presenter at the school facility
iv. Off-site session
v. Other (An open response for teachers to offer suggestions)
c. When the teachers prefer to engage in the session.
i. During a planned professional development day
ii. After school hours
iii. Other (An open response for teachers to offer suggestions)

2. Make sure the teachers are given adequate time to prepare for the professional
development session.
a. Create a calendar invite noting:
i. The date and time frame
ii. Notes about materials, supplies, data, or technology they need to bring
iii. Location of the session
iv. Any prior expectations, such as reading an article or completing a task.
v. Provide access to materials before the session starts.

3. If feasible, the leader should attend the session to contribute to the discussion and
engage in collaborative learning with the teachers.

4. Build deliberate collaboration time after the session ends for teachers to debrief together
about new information gained from the session.

5. Provide teachers with a method to articulate feedback about the session:
a. Exit ticket
b. Survey
c. In-person conference

6. Engage teachers in discussions based on the effectiveness of information learned from
the professional development after conducting a classroom observation, engaging in data
conferences, or planning conferences.

7. Listen to the teachers’ feedback to ensure future professional development sessions
cultivate the positive interactions needed to drive intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

Concluding Thoughts

Spending time developing substantive events based on teachers' needs lays the
foundation to establish a catalyst for building positive interactions that motivate teachers’ job
satisfaction. Using a structure similar to the guide provided for developing a professional
development session provides a method to structure events that stimulate positive interactions
● providing teachers opportunities to give their input about the event structure,
● generating opportunities to collaborate with peers,
● encouraging teachers to implement new processes, and
● enabling opportunities to provide authentic feedback about professional development.
Are you already thinking about your next professional development session or another event
that could be a catalyst for developing positive interactions with your staff?


Albright, J. L., Safer, L. A., Sims, P. A., Tagaris, A., Glasgow, D., Sekulich, K. M., & Zaharis,
M. C. (2017). What factors impact why novice middle school teachers in a large
midwestern urban school district leave after their initial year of teaching. International
Journal of Educational m Leadership Preparation, 12(1).
Florida Department of Education. (2021). Identification of critical teacher shortage areas for
Florida Department of Education. (2022). Identification of critical teacher shortage areas for
Goldring, R., Taie, S., & Riddles, M. (2014). Teacher attrition and mobility: Results from the
2012–13 Teacher Follow-up Survey (NCES 2014-077). U.S. Department of Education.
Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Okeke, C. I., & Mtyuda, P. N. (2017). Teacher job dissatisfaction: Implications for teacher
sustainability and social transformation. Journal of Teacher Education for
Sustainability, 19(1), 54-68.
Wronowski, M. L. (2018). Filling the void: A grounded theory approach to addressing teacher
recruitment and retention in urban schools. Education and Urban Society, 50(6),

Blog Post Biography: Cynthia Mergaert

This is my 13th year in education and my fourth year serving students and teachers as a
vice principal. Providing a world-class educational opportunity for students and a supportive
organizational environment for the teachers and staff is my ultimate goal each school year. I
firmly believe those in education must be lifelong learners. Throughout my years as an educator,
I have attained multiple Florida teaching certifications, including elementary education,
exceptional student education, gifted education, social science, science, English for speakers of
other languages, and educational leadership. I also have earned a master’s degree in exceptional
student education and a master’s degree in educational leadership. I am currently in the final
stages of finishing my doctoral degree in educational leadership with a concentration in
instructional leadership. Using the knowledge I have gained from the doctoral leadership
courses and my dissertation research study, I aspire to promote student growth and help fellow
leaders develop methods to foster a positive organizational environment that influences
teachers’ job satisfaction.