Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Public Health


Epidemiology and Biostatistics

First Advisor

Erin N. Haynes, DrPH, MS


The COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching effects on school communities, which will continue to affect the teaching profession for years to come. As K-12 teachers worked to meet the educational, social, emotional and health needs of students and families, their personal well-being was taxed. It is critical to understand the experiences of K-12 teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic and to leverage this understanding to develop effective strategies for supporting K-12 teachers in the future. This research leveraged data from the School Staff Health and Wellness Study to examine teachers’ well-being and career outlook during the COVID-19 pandemic. The central hypothesis was ‘adverse work environment factors during the COVID-19 pandemic would have significant effects on teachers’ well-being and future career plans.’ In the first study, the association between K-12 teachers’ satisfaction with their technological training and their well-being during Fall 2020 was evaluated. Following a mixed methods design, ANCOVA tests were used to compare means of scores on validated measures of stress, anxiety, depression, well-being and sleep among teachers who were satisfied with their technology training, unsatisfied with their training and who did not receive technology training. To complement quantitative analyses, content analysis was conducted to understand the breadth of responsibilities teachers assumed in Fall 2020. Participants’ responses to the following open-ended question were analyzed: “When preparing to teach in Fall 2020, what else did you have to do?” The majority (88%) of participants reported having to learn new technology yet approximately half (54%) felt unsatisfied with the training they received. When compared with teachers who were unsatisfied with their technology training, those who were satisfied with their training were less anxious, depressed, stressed, had lower sleep disturbance, and scored higher on measures of well-being. The second study focused on evaluating the association between teachers’ work environment and plans to continue teaching. A multivariable logistic regression model was fit to data describing teachers’ working conditions and future career plans. Results suggest that 27% of teachers were considering leaving the profession in Fall 2020. The following five factors were associated with teachers considering leaving their profession: low satisfaction with COVID-19 related decision making (aOR=2.50), poor mental health (aOR=2.31), lower levels of supervisor support (aOR=1.88), significant job duty changes (aOR= 1.51), and greater fear that a household member would contract COVID-19 (aOR=1.37). In the third study, trends in teachers’ well-being throughout the COVID-19 era were evaluated. Longitudinal analysis of teachers’ scores on validated measures of stress, anxiety, depression, well-being, and sleep disturbance was undertaken. Findings indicate that from Fall 2020 to Spring 2022, average anxiety, depression, stress and sleep disturbance decreased among teachers as overall well-being scores improved. Access to supervisor support and normalization of working hours to pre-pandemic levels were associated with improved well-being. Concurrently, the percentage of teachers who were teaching remotely dropped from 30% to 1% respectively. Concurrently, approximately 20% of teachers reported “poor” mental health. From Fall 2020 to Spring 2022, the percentage of teachers who endorsed plans to continue teaching fell from 73% to 67%. In conclusion, this dissertation aimed to enhance understanding of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on K-12 teachers’ well-being and career plans. Ultimately the goal of this work is to guide policies and interventions to foster resilient and supportive school communities. Understanding the experiences of K-12 teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to effectively supporting members of school communities amid future challenging circumstances.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

1. The University of Kentucky Center for Clinical Translational Science Predoctoral Fellowship, 2021-2023

2. The National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through grant number TL1TR001997, 2021-2023

3. University of Kentucky Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (UK CARES), 2022

Available for download on Thursday, May 08, 2025