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Recruiting & Hiring

Generation Z: The New Wave of Teachers

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Let’s talk Generation Z.

Born roughly between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z (also referred to as “iGeneration” or “The Global Generation”) is the largest and most ethnically diverse generation to date. The youngest of Generation Z are still in the K-12 classroom while the oldest have already begun to enter the workforce.

What does this mean for the future of the education sector? It’s no secret that teaching as a career choice has declined in popularity among the younger generations. Pair that with the teacher shortage and decreasing enrollment in teacher prep programs, and your district’s future applicant pool could be at risk.

To effectively attract and keep those in this generation who are seeking teach, your district needs to truly understand what sets Generation Z apart.

They’re here and more connected than ever. Is your district ready?

Gen Z Fast Facts according to the Pew Research Center:

  1. Projected to make up 27% of the global workforce
  2. By 2025, Gen Z will make up 32% of the global population
  3. 52% of Gen Z are non-Hispanic white
  4. 22% of Gen Z have at least one immigrant parent


Curious to see where your state stands with teachers prep programs? Check out the interactive map.

Who is Gen Z?

Before we dig into the nitty gritty, it’s important to note that not all of Generation Z is confined to the characteristics outlined here. However, these are traits and tendencies that have been widely identified and must be acknowledged as districts continue to face a tightening teacher pipeline.

Generation Z are not Millennials. Despite sharing some similarities, Gen Z is strikingly distinct, and understanding the differences between the two is your first step toward effectively attracting them to your district:

Millennials Gen Z
  • Optimistic
  • Prefer collaborative work environments
  • Tech-savvy
  • Risk-aware
  • Desire career growth
  • Prioritize work-life balance
  • Pragmatic
  • Prefer their own workspace
  • Digital natives
  • Risk-averse
  • Desire job security
  • Prioritize diversity in the workplace

Sources: McKinsey & Company, Academy to Innovate HR

Technology is their past, present, and future

If you ask someone in Generation Z if they remember the sound of dial-up internet or how to use a floppy disk, you may get a quizzical look. Generation Z is the first generation to be born into technology, the first true digital natives. There’s no denying that Millennials are tech-savvy and considered digital pioneers themselves, but Gen Z has had immediate, unfiltered access to the digital world since birth. Most are “plugged in” in every facet of life, from communication to entertainment to eCommerce.

Gen Z Fast Fact: In general, Gen Z favors technology and applications that have non-permanent storage and prioritize privacy.


District Support Tips

  • Support a digitized classroom by encouraging the use of educational software. From review games to interactive lessons, there are countless applications available for free!
  • Improve your hiring and onboarding strategy by offering digital onboarding. With “technology-first” employees, digital onboarding can help improve engagement, productivity, and even retention.
  • Embrace new technology. Future classrooms will be shaped by new technology. Whether it’s 3D printing, augmented/virtual reality, or biometrics, fully digitized classrooms will undoubtedly become the norm. Get ahead of the curve and investigate ways your district can implement new technology.


Instant feedback is highly valued

Considering we can now binge-watch an entire series on Netflix or find virtually any “how-to” video on YouTube, it’s easy to see why Generation Z expects to have access to information within seconds (eight, to be exact). They are professional multitaskers, communicating on multiple screens at once while simultaneously leaning into the “TL; DR” (too long; didn’t read) era.

“Because of the way [newer teachers] get their news and information, they’re used to immediate feedback”
from “Five Generations at Work” on the Field Trip Podcast.
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District Support Tips

  • Provide shorter, frequent feedback. Members of Generation Z value instant and ongoing feedback, but also consider offering varied forms of feedback, be it via Zoom, email, or in-person.
  • Consider implementing a peer-to-peer mentor program (if your district isn’t already doing so). Pairing a younger teacher with a veteran teacher will promote an ongoing dialogue and it will also allow for more instant feedback.


Diversity and social activism are top-of-mind

Generation Z has brought the age of activism to the center stage. As global citizens, they are more radically inclusive and culturally aware than previous generations. They also have a strong preference for sustainable and eco-friendly products.

Within the workplace, Gen Z highly values diversity, equity, and inclusion. Pew Research notes that more than any other generation, Gen Z sees increased racial and ethnic diversity as a positive thing for society as a whole. Is your district prioritizing DE&I strategies to promote a culturally responsive school?

District Support Tips

  • Offer ongoing, robust professional development that focuses on DE&I.
  • Consider implementing an Equity Leadership Team to promote diversity-related events.
  • Don’t be afraid to continually evaluate your DE&I strategies. Invite feedback, evaluate, and iterate.
  • Ensure diverse literature is easily accessible. Check out The University of Maryland’s International Children’s Digital Library.


“We’re going to have to look at some more strategies, and to really find the time, the budget, the opportunities to tap into communities of color, where you have a lot of gifted, talented people who don’t have opportunities to engage in professional learning, so, you’re really looking at ways that you could entice people to become a member of your district that would meet their need as well as yours.”
from “School Workforce Diversity” on the Field Trip Podcast
Listen Now


Mental health matters

There has been an undeniable rise of anxiety and depression over the past few years, especially with the added stresses of the pandemic. Yet Generation Z is much more open to discussing mental health than some earlier generations. They go to therapy more often and are working toward destigmatizing mental health issues.

Gen Z Fast Fact: The American Psychological Association found that 91% of Gen Zers between ages 18 and 21 have experienced one physical or emotional symptom due to stress in the past year.


District Support Tips

  • Offer mental health days. The shortage of teachers and substitutes is serious, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of taking care of your teacher’s mental health. Consider separating vacation and sick days from mental health days.
  • Evaluate your onboarding processes to ensure new educators feel welcomed and valued.
  • Create a healthy work environment by individually supporting each employee and making sure their voices are heard.

Generation Z has already started to fill your classrooms, not just as students, but as teachers. To help fully support this new generation as they continue to enter the workplace, it is essential to understand and acknowledge their key traits and characteristics. It doesn’t just stop once they’re hired — your district should continually find new ways to support this new generation to promote a healthy, safe, and interactive environment.

Are you ready?