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Peer support program offers a listening ear, support for struggling educators in AZ

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 23:44:14-05

PHOENIX — "The need is huge, it's absolutely heartbreaking how much need there is," said Debi Neat, a retired educator of more than thirty years who now volunteers with Arizona's Educator Peer Support Program.

Neat's only job is to listen.

"We're bleeding educators," she said. "I've had administrators who have been so successful, so wonderful, tell me, 'I don't think I can do this anymore.'"

Dr. Joe Roselle is the community engagement coordinator for the Laveen District. He is also a peer support volunteer.

"It seems like they're getting tired or more worn out earlier on in the year," said Roselle.

It is a troubling and concerning trend. In a questionnaire sent out by the Maricopa County Superintendent's Office last fall:

-96% of the nearly 2,500 respondents said they feel stress at work

-Anxiety, irritability, and prolonged fatigue were their most common symptoms

-When compared to previous school years the level of "severe" or "extreme" stress educators are experiencing has skyrocketed

"More than anything, I think they just want to be heard," Roselle said.

That is where the Educator Peer Support Program comes in. A free, confidential conversation with a fellow educator. It can be virtual or on the phone, and while volunteers are not counselors, they can point people toward resources that may be helpful.

"Because I'm not in their district or in their school, it gives them the ability to share more openly and just kind of let me know how they're feeling," said Roselle.

"We're here and we're here to help," said Neat.

Anyone interested in the program can head to the AZ Educator's Peer Support Program and fill out the required form. Someone will contact you within just a couple of days to set up a time to talk.

Also, the Maricopa County Superintendent's Office is holding a "Teacher Stress Virtual Town Hall" on Thursday, January 20. School and district leaders will be talking about what they're currently doing to address this growing issue and what more can be done.