NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Choosing to walk away from teaching wasn’t easy for Amanda Baker, a former Metro Nashville Public School teacher.

Baker, an elementary school teacher, stepped away from the classroom this school year after 12 years.

You may remember her sharing challenges facing educators with News 2 back in 2019 before the pandemic.

“They’re our future. And if I can’t give them what they need, it’s hard,” Baker told Alex Denis in 2019. Even then she was considering a change. “Have you ever thought about leaving?” Alex asked. Baker said, “Yes.”

Baker said the decision to leave the classroom was heartbreaking but also freeing.

“I’m kind of a ball of emotions, to be honest. I’m relieved. But then there’s always still that little teacher guilt of, you know, feeling like you walked out on your purpose,” said Baker.

Baker taught through Covid and found ways to engage her first graders through computer screens.

“We went from being, you know, the saviors of COVID, ‘oh, my goodness, how do these teachers do it every day?’ to like, at the drop of a dime, everything switched,” she recalled.

When students returned to the classrooms, they experienced some significant learning loss. Baker said the standards set were unrealistic.

“There were no adjustments to the curriculum,” she said.

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Baker felt teachers and students were set up to fail.

“We’re told, you know, ‘we know they’re behind. But we need them ready for second grade.'” She continued, “In the meantime, you have students that come in that really, in first grade, can’t even hardly write their name. So, it was extremely difficult and heartbreaking.”

Time restricted and outlined lessons are examples of what teachers follow, and Baker said they make it almost impossible to spend more time on a concept.

“The curriculum is very scripted. It takes away the fun. It takes away the love,” said Baker.

Baker held the highest ranking in the state’s level of overall effectiveness scale- a 5. She explained teachers face unbelievable pressure to meet that success. And, those scores affect everything, even hiring.

“If your students come in and they’re performing extremely low, and you are not able to bring them to the point of acceptance, then those scores are reflected upon you,” she said.

If scores are low, administrators observe the class frequently. Baker said there’s a problem with that practice.

“You don’t know that the child that is on the floor, screaming and crying, or throwing things across the floor, or across the classroom, while you’re doing my observation. You don’t know what happened last night with that child.” She added, “It’s those types of things that are not taken into consideration all the time.”

Despite those pressures, Baker pushed forward. The final straw though came when a private company recruited her to Ohio.

She was offered a sizable raise for a position with a lot less stress. But, curious, she also applied for a teaching license.

“I could not believe that, for my level of education with my master’s degree, and for the years of experience, I would have been paid almost double what I was making in Nashville. And that is, that’s staggering to me,” she said.

Baker said she still thinks about her colleagues who are still in the field and for her students who were the real reason she held on for so long – until her spirit finally broke.

“I pray for them daily,” said Baker. “I miss the children. I miss them so so much. Now, it makes me emotional. But, at this moment, I don’t see that I will be going back into the classroom. Um, maybe one day, you know, but right now. I don’t think that I can.”