WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — After eight years of teaching in Wilson County, one teacher told News 2 he is leaving the state of Tennessee.  

He blames pay, the culture war, and anti-teacher rhetoric.    

“You can’t buy a house in this area if you’re a teacher. You’d be lucky to rent in this area,” Tyler Hallstedt said. 

Hallstedt, a former Mt. Juliet Middle School teacher, wrestling coach, and tennis coach, sat down with News 2 to voice his frustrations.

“I love teaching and I plan on doing it until I’m too old to do it,” Hallstedt said. 

And while teaching is a passion of his, he said there is no incentive to stay in Tennessee.  

“At first, I thought Wilson County had really low compensation in Tennessee. Then I made a spreadsheet of 120 schools; Wilson County is in the 30-40 range. Tennessee just doesn’t pay their teachers well,” Hallstedt said. 

To retain qualified teachers, one Wilson County parent created an online petition.  

Recently, the Wilson County budget committee voted against a $0.07 property tax increase that would give teachers an additional 5% raise.   

“Teachers have ears; they see what they can make it Nashville, what they can make in Rutherford,” Hallstedt said. 

According to Hallstedt, he will receive a significant pay increase in Michigan. However, he added it’s not just pay that is pushing him out the door; he pointed to ongoing culture wars within the state, such as book banning.

“I feel like it’s a massive waste of time when 95% plus of our students have phones in their pockets,” Hallstedt said. 

Nevertheless, he said leaving his students and colleagues was a difficult decision.   

”I’m upset for the teachers in Wilson County and the students because they are the ones that really lose when the district doesn’t take care of their teachers,” Hallstedt said. 

Wilson County Schools told News 2 currently there are around 150 certified teacher openings. However, 40 of those positions are due to growth within the district; there are around 1,400 teacher positions in the district.  

“I am resigning from West Wilson,” Lauren Gray said.   

Those were the final words during a West Wilson teacher’s public comment at Monday night’s school board meeting.