Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Teaching and Learning Sciences, Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Nicholas J. Cutforth, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher

Third Advisor

Paul Michalec

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Goetz


Autoethnography, Education, Principals, Teacher education, Teaching, Urban teachers


Students in urban schools who are negatively impacted need stability and continuity the most. However, at least half of new teachers leave their profession within five years. In order for this situation to change, support is needed for new teachers and encouragement is needed for experienced teachers.

The purpose of the study is to offer a first-hand description of factors that affect the profession of teaching and especially teachers who may be wondering how to stay in teaching for more than five years. Veteran teachers gain the opportunity to reflect, validate, and (probably) celebrate their own journey through this profession. This autoethnography uses my experience of a 29-year veteran teacher, who started with an alternative teaching license, to mirror what researchers have identified as key factors for sustainability and how they affected my continued commitment to teaching in urban schools.

The following questions framed the study:

1. Why did I choose teaching as a career?

2. What supportive factors contributed to my decision to continue teaching in an urban school rather than leave the profession?

3. What internal and external struggles have I encountered in teaching and what strategies did I use to overcome them?

4. What beliefs and experiences led to my steadfast commitment to teaching in an urban setting?

5. How do I define success as an urban teacher?

6. What are the implications of my story for urban education?

This autoethnography involves data collection and in-depth analysis of documents and artifacts that were generated during my teaching career as an urban educator. These documents and artifacts come from both internal and external sources.

The study’s implications reach beyond teachers and include two sub-groups: teacher education programs and school administrators. The implication for teachers is the importance of a two-fold support system in order to thrive: first teachers need spiritual support and second they need to surround themselves with likeminded teachers. The implications for teacher education programs include making pre-service teachers aware of the realities of urban settings and provide them with resources, which could help overcome the attrition rate. Additionally, pre-service teachers need to know how to form credible relationships with their students.

This study also reveals the important role that school principals play in the success of their teachers. First, principals are responsible for creating a positive school climate that promotes a professional learning community. Second, they need to establish relational trust in their building. Third, they need to nourish their staff both physically and emotionally. Finally, the implications of autoethnography for teachers and researchers are also discussed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Jacqueline R. Arriaga


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

147 p.


Education, Teacher Education