DURHAM, N.C. — Neal Magnet Middle School teacher Evette Rawls is creating a safe space where emotions can be shared and mindfulness practiced.

"We're moving into also understanding compassion and empathy," Rawls said. "If you're in a good circumstance or a bad circumstance, what choices am I making every day?"


What You Need To Know

A Durham middle school teacher created a documentary for teachers' voices

The documentary showcases educators' woes and successes

The pandemic made teachers' jobs more difficult


Rawls started embracing what's called "social emotional learning" when the pandemic hit. She realized her students needed more support than lesson plans and homework.

"I put compassion over curriculum," she said. "[I look] at them knowing when to push the gas, knowing when to let up, knowing when to push a little further, and knowing when they've had enough."

Although prioritizing her student's mental health was just the beginning. The challenges of the pandemic sparked an idea Rawls had back in 2018.

"I said now's the time, so I wanted to make sure the voices of the teachers were heard from teachers, and I wanted to encourage teachers to stay in the profession," she said.

Rawls spent months creating a documentary of fellow educators' woes and successes. Also, highlighting the "why," as Rawls calls it. "Why'" teachers are called to do this job in the first place.

After 20 years in education, Rawls holds on to her "why" every day.

"We have some wonderful children that depend on us every day, and that's what pushes me​," she said.

Today, Rawls is encouraging other educators to not give up and to remember they're not alone.

"If I can be a bridge to new teachers that are still trying to stay in the profession and do what they're called to do, that's what I desire to do," Rawls said.

Today, educators are navigating unfamiliar territory juggling the demands of COVID-19 safety guidelines, virtual learning and staffing shortages.

A recent survey from the Rand Corporation shows nearly 1 in 4 teachers say they were likely to leave their jobs at the end of last school year. Before the pandemic, that number was 1 in 6. African-American teachers were especially likely to leave.

Many teachers also reporting job-related stress and symptoms of depression.