DES MOINES, Iowa — Casey Force has been an educator within Des Moines Public Schools for more than a decade, but she says she notices more of her colleagues are leaving now than ever before.

“When people leave and we can’t replace them, it becomes even harder for the ones that stick around like I do,” Force said. “For a long time, passion is what really drove teachers, but that passion is leading to exhaustion.”

According to the Iowa Department of Education, Des Moines Public Schools had fewer educators last school year (2,507) than it did in the 2017-2018 school year (2,583.)

The school district tried to counteract the trend with a virtual job fair Wednesday afternoon.

“We are hopefully hiring new teachers that are able to start now, because we still have some vacant positions now to fill, but we are also hiring people that can start with us in August,” Des Moines Public School’s director of talent support Peter LeBlanc explained.

Force believes there are so many empty positions because the workload of teaching can be taxing and thankless at times.

“People think that teachers are meant to be everything for kids. We’re not,” Force said. “We can’t be everything for kids, but we certainly do the best that we can.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced during her Condition of the State speech that she would distribute $1,000 bonuses to teachers who worked through the pandemic and pledge to come back for the 2022-2023 school year.

Force said the bonuses are appreciated, but worries it may not be enough to attract more teachers to the field.

“The kids just aren’t getting, in my opinion, the education they need when our teachers are spread so thin,” Force said.

While DMPS’ number of full-time educators declined in the past four school years, the statewide number of educators slightly increased in that timeframe. According to the Iowa Department of Education, the statewide educator population went from 36,786 in the 2017-2018 school year to 37,774 in the 2020-2021 school year.