Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Susan M. Baum, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sally M. Dobyns, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Marcia A.B. Delcourt, Ph.D.


This qualitative study was designed to explore how experienced teachers who love their work, find value in it, and contribute positively to the work environment sustain their positive mindset in the face of challenge and change in America’s public schools. Since the advent of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and subsequent educational reform measures, schools have turned increasingly to accountability measures around student testing, teacher evaluations, and other perceived metrics of performance. Since the implementation of NCLB, there has been an increase in teachers leaving the classroom due in part to these stressors. This phenomenon has been well documented in the research. Less understood is how and why some teachers not only stay, but thrive in challenging circumstances. This study applies grounded theory methodology to probe how thriving veteran teachers avoid pitfalls such as burnout and demoralization, and instead evolve and grow. All data were collected prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. In-depth interviews with a nominated sample of ten thriving public school teachers in two states in the Northeast were conducted. Two-cycle coding and analytic memos provided a platform for data analysis, which ultimately led to three assertions. These assertions are that job fit plays a pivotal role in teachers’ ability to thrive over time. Teachers apply intrinsic motivation and signature strengths to self-actualize on the job. In this dynamic, challenge and change are essential for growth toward the highest level of human potentiality, transcendence.