Muncie Community Schools has improved its focus on the importance of young educators.

A classroom sits empty at the end of the school day Feb. 27 at East Washington Academy in Muncie, Indiana. This classroom belongs to a first-grade class in the Muncie Community Schools. Mya Cataline, DN
A classroom sits empty at the end of the school day Feb. 27 at East Washington Academy in Muncie, Indiana. This classroom belongs to a first-grade class in the Muncie Community Schools. Mya Cataline, DN

“The ship is sinking,” second-year teacher Zachary Houser said.

Houser is referring to a ‘ship’ full of veteran educators who are falling behind in today's world of rapidly evolving education practices and standards. This can be solved, as these teachers are preparing to retire, yet, they have no one to replace them.

This issue is growing larger.

According to a 2022 study released by the National Opinion Research Center, less than one in five Americans would encourage a young person to become a K-12 teacher.

Participants based their responses on issues like lack of pay and stressful work environments. The study parallels the actual lack of young educators currently in the workforce.

Muncie Community Schools (MCS) recognizes this and has begun to implement steps and programs to allow college graduates to find their footing in teaching — fast.

Director of Elementary Education at MCS Heidi White acknowledged the stigma surrounding young teachers, while also highlighting their benefits.

“There is value in a veteran teacher for sure, but there's also value [in] having somebody come in with a fresh perspective,” she said.

In her current role, White oversees the curriculum for grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and MCS’ preschool programs. Additionally, she said her role also comes with an overall focus on school improvement.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its 2023 Education at a Glance report, it reported within OECD countries, 18 percent of teachers at pre-primary levels are under the age of 30.

The report also stated that in 45 percent of countries with available data, teachers aged 50 and older are at least double those under 30. This statistic can prove costly when teachers have to retire, as recently, educators are more frequently leaving the profession.

According to the National Education Association, 86 percent of its members noted they saw more educators leave the profession since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is something that can be fixed by young teachers. White acknowledged this and said in her 18 years at MCS, she’s seen the importance of young educators firsthand.

“I do feel like, a lot of times, people [who] are coming in younger have a renewed sense of hope for our kids, which is what we need,” White said. “That's not to say veteran teachers don't, but … [young teachers] come in, and they are ready and feel empowered and take ownership of [the] kids in our community.”

First-grade teacher Savannah Oliphant at East Washington Academy is one such young educator. In her second year at MCS, Oliphant said she has taken on a lot of responsibility with her co-teacher.

Last year, she helped create a new curriculum which is now being implemented in her current classroom, something she feels she “nailed.”

Living in Muncie until she was about eight, Oliphant attended the school she now teaches at when it was open as Washington-Carver Elementary School. Additionally, she attended Ball State University for her last two years of earning her undergraduate degree.

She said this lived experience with MCS has bettered her as a teacher.

“I know what it's like to be in a lower socioeconomic school district and status … I know what these kids go through,” she said. “I always have the same structure, I always have the same routine because [students] don't get that anywhere else.”

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Zachary Houser teaches juniors in a Latin course April 4 at Muncie Central High School in Muncie, Indiana. Houser is one of the many young teachers working with Muncie Community Schools. Charlie Graham, Photo Provided

In terms of being a young teacher, she said it’s an important initiative to have in schools and a title she values. Oliphant said being a young teacher equates to being more adventurous, something encouraged by her administration.

Additionally, she said working in a school full of young teachers is “awesome” as she feels there is more possibility to collaborate and bounce ideas off of one another to make sure students succeed.

However, while her reality is something she loves, it is still something she is getting used to.

“It's really weird that the parents are older than me or my age,” Oliphant said. “I'm like, ‘Oh my goodness, how do I talk to these people?’”

Houser echoed Oliphant and said being a young teacher gives him an advantage over his older coworkers. Even though it’s still something he’s adjusting to, he said being able to consume media in the same ways his students do helps.

“I didn't think my students would make me feel old at 25, but they definitely do,” he said.

Houser teaches Latin at Muncie Central High School and said MCS’ “forward-thinking vision” with young teachers makes sense. He believes MCS’ continued partnership with Ball State is “wonderful” and easily allows graduating Cardinals and community members to contribute to the school system.

“I think MCS' mission to make the school a safe place for these kids and to be a stable factor [in their life] is really positive,” he said. “[MCS is] willing to take a more holistic picture than a lot of educators and people in education are willing to do.

“Without that support, that extra help that MCS is trying to provide to new teachers, I don't know how many people could really swing it,” he added. “I think that they're doing exactly what they have to do, you know, keep the ship afloat.”

Houser recognized and has experienced the “boom or bust” cycle in the education system where veteran teachers retire and new, young teachers have to take their place.

He said young teachers are bridging the gap between student and school, something desperately needed today.

“The situation is bad everywhere, and the kids are missing some major developmental milestones, whether that be through COVID[-19] or other systemic things,” Houser said. “With the way that education is working in America right now, people are leaving in unprecedented numbers, so you have to focus on young teachers.”

Contact Trinity Rea via email at or on X @thetrinityrea.