Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education



Major Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Dinkins

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Angela Shaughnessy

Third Advisor

Dr. Mary Beth Bowling


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic research showed that teacher attrition among new teachers (less than five years) was a problem for schools throughout the country and Catholic Schools were facing an even higher rate (Ingersoll, 2003). Research also shows that there are often cultural and structural components of Catholic schools that influence teachers to stay (Youngs, 2013; Convey, 2012, 2014). The COVID-19 pandemic forced the education system to pivot and teachers are expected to continue to have high standards for education while making these shifts.

In the early period of COVID-19 pandemic research was already suggesting attrition rates were rising and teachers were reporting higher stress and depression rates (Steiner & Woo, 2021). An already high-stress, high-attrition profession has become even more vulnerable. This research used a phenomenological approach to examine the essence of the reality of teaching in an Archdiocesan district during the COVID-19 pandemic. It examines the influence of the social and cultural factors during the COVID-19 pandemic on teachers’ beliefs, feelings and behaviors. Guided by the overarching research question: What is the essence of teaching in a large Archdiocese during the COVID-19 pandemic? To explore this essence the following sub-questions were addressed:

  1. What factors contributed to or alleviated the additional stress of teaching in this Archdiocese during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. What types of teacher self-care were effective for Catholic school teachers while dealing with the stressors of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  3. Does Catholic school identity influence the teacher experience during COVID-19?

A particular county within this Archdiocese was used for this study because policies, protocols and procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic were governed by the county’s health department. In this county within this Archdiocese, 16,276 Catholic Schools students and 1583 teachers was the bounded case used for this study. There are 30 elementary schools and 8 high schools within this Archdiocese. Participant sample followed a purposeful and tiered approach. Data collection included an online questionnaire (208 participants), five focus groups (36 participants), and individual interviews (6 participants).

The themes and categories emerged from the participants’ responses to the questionnaire, focus groups and one-on-one interviews revealed the true essence of teaching in a large Archdiocese during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data analysis revealed 5 consistent themes that emerged from the research that spoke to the essence of teaching in this Archdiocese during the COVID-19 pandemic: 1) the role of technology as contributor and alleviator of stress 2.) the feeling of doing two jobs 3.) loss of control 4.) transitioning back out of COVID-19 5.) the role of the faith community.