Investigating How an Informal Program Sustains Teachers in Their Profession
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Teacher turnover is a significant problem in the United States. Research has examined how to retain teachers through teacher induction and continuing education programs, mentoring, and building a supportive community and environment. However, despite efforts by educators, administration, and universities, turnover rates remain high. Although there is a large body of research on how traditional professional development (PD) provides support to teachers, there is a lack of research on how informal summer programs, such as summer math camps, accomplish this. This study examines the experiences of five teachers in a summer math camp that included a teaching component and an associated PD program, called JSMC. A phenomenological approach is taken to understand the experiences of the teachers, how the setting contributes to their experiences, and how these experiences help to sustain the teachers in their profession. In this study, I found that the teachers learned both about mathematics and also about teaching while participating in JSMC. They formed mentoring relationships with the professors running JSMC, collaborated with other teachers and formed lasting friendships. They adopted teaching strategies and honed their teaching during camp. Most importantly, they were inspired to stay in the profession because of the supportive environment. The various experiences had by the teachers contributed to sustaining them in the profession.