School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Samuel Smith


Experienced Teachers, Growth Mindset, Motivational Factors, Novice Teachers, Phenomenology, Teacher Sustainability


Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Gifted Education | Other Educational Administration and Supervision


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe factors that sustained public school teachers in high-need areas. Teacher sustainability was generally defined as teachers who remained in a high-need public school located in southeastern North Carolina beyond the initial three years of teaching. This study explored the following: (1) How do public school teachers describe their experience working in a high-need educational community in North Carolina? (2) How do public school teachers perceive their former life history as having an impact retaining their profession beyond the initial three years of teaching in a high-need, low-performing public school? (3) What intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors do public school teachers describe as encouraging them to sustain their teaching profession beyond the initial three years of teaching in a high-need, low-performing public school? The theoretical framework that guided this study was mindset and motivation theory proposed by Carol Dweck, andragogical adult learning theory introduced by Malcolm Knowles, and transformative learning theory developed by Jack Mezirow. A detailed analysis revealed five descriptive themes derived from the participants answering the interview questions, focus group questions, and completing the photo-narrative documentation. Themes that emerged included (a) colleagues as family, (b) sense of calling, (c) love for children, (d) contribution to community, and (e) service to others. Recommendations for future research included exploring experienced teachers who teach in non-high-need public schools within North Carolina and surrounding states, replicating the study in an urban school district, conducting the study with charter schools and parochial schools that serve students in a high-need educational community, and conducting a quantitative study that explores the effectiveness of teacher sustainability and student achievement in a high-need public school.