Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

Nicholas J. Cutforth, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Richard Kitchen, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Paul Michalec

Fourth Advisor

Lynn Parker


Teacher, Burn out, Life cycle, Narrative, Thriving, Urban teaching, Veteran teachers



Teacher burn out contributes to the epidemic of early career exit. At least half of all new K-12 teachers leave the profession by the time they reach their fifth year of teaching. Conversely, there are urban teachers who survive burn out and thrive as career- long educators.

This qualitative study is an in-depth look into one 40-year veteran teacher's career narrative, answering the question: How did this teacher not only survive but also thrive as a career-long urban teacher? Additionally, the following sub-questions are explored: a) How is her spirit sustained throughout her teacher lifecycle? b) How can her story contribute to the literature as a counter-narrative to the current rhetoric focused on "teacher bashing"?

A critical socio-political lens guides this study. The socio-political forces that lead to urban teacher burn out are explained. The idea of teacher burn in, in which educators experience the symptoms of burn out, but choose to remain in the profession and exist as toxic influences, is discussed and related to teacher career theory. However, the more hopeful idea of urban teacher thrivalis uncovered through narrative methodology.

This narrative study reveals three salient themes. First hope springs eternal is the idea that sustaining hope supported the veteran teacher's career thrival. Next, the extended education family is the notion that familial-like relationships at school nourished the teacher's longevity. The third theme, creative autonomy, reveals that by being empowered with opportunities for curriculum development and instructional decision-making the teacher maintained her passion. Each theme was influenced by the participant's internal dispositional factors and external conditional factors. These factors are discussed. The above themes, combined with deeply rooted caring relationships with students, proved to be the most important aspects of the participant's sustained spirit. Furthermore, this study illustrates how teacher narratives can act as counter-narratives to teacher bashing through revealing the systemic impact that can be made by the career of one thriving teacher. Implications for teachers, educational leaders, teacher educators and researchers are discussed.

Publication Statement

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

Rights Holder

Kristina Marie Valtierra


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

330 p.


Teacher education, Multicultural education, Pedagogy