The Experience of a North Carolina Teacher

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Thank you to all of our Green Level teachers!

Varshini Sathish, News Section Co-editor

As many of you know, teacher appreciation week was last week. So let’s take a few minutes to acknowledge these talented, dedicated individuals who are essential to every community, city, and nation. Every successful professional, leader, and entrepreneur started their journey in school. Teaching is one of the most important jobs and not everyone can become a teacher.  As Mrs. Hailey, Green Level psychology teacher, said, “it takes a really special person to want to become an educator… and you have to go into it knowing that there will be times you are not always valued, but you need to give yourself opportunities to see where you are valued.” And then she gave a great example of this: she said, “you see that a student, when you said ‘good morning’ their eyes lit up, that’s what’s going to give me value.” 

 

Teachers have to develop lesson plans and creatively find ways to teach their material to students. There is also a lot of after-hour grading that happens behind the scenes, which is not included as part of the contract. As Mrs. Hailey continuously said, “teaching is not a 9-5 job”.  Especially during the pandemic, she said that they have had to change their teaching style “about four different times” with “zero training”. Mr. Taylor, Technology Engineering and Design teacher at Green Level, also said that especially with teaching during the pandemic, there is a lack of work-life balance. Teachers spend time during the summer for professional development, special training, and other meetings to prepare for the next school year.  Many teachers buy teaching materials with their own money. In NC, 92.9% of teachers spent their own money to buy supplies for an average of $434!

 

And even after all the sacrifices they make to enrich students’ lives, these teachers are not paid enough. As Mr. Taylor said, “we are expected to give our all to the job when the job doesn’t always give its all to us.”  He said when he was on a beginning teacher’s salary, he was only making $14 an hour, which is what you would earn without a GED! In fact, teachers in the public sector are earning 17% less than other college-educated professionals. Average weekly wages for teachers decreased by $30 from 1996 to 2015. Many teachers I have talked to, including Mr. Taylor, say they work a second job. In fact, more than half of NC teachers have a second job to make ends meet. What’s more, during the summer they compete with students for entry-level positions they are obviously overqualified for. 

 

Due to low pay and challenges in teaching, more teachers are quitting their jobs. Most states require a Bachelor’s degree and some additional certification to teach.  The cost of getting a degree has been steadily increasing over the years, and it takes quite a while for teachers to pay back their loans. This turns away talented individuals from going into education and causes existing teachers to feel frustrated that their efforts and sacrifices are not being seen by the community. 

If you want to help out, Mr. Taylor recommends writing to your state legislators, making petitions, emailing the governors, and voting for people that advocate for education. Samya Potlapalli, a student at Green Level High, has also started a Teacher Pay Reform Campaign to “lobby for teacher pay reform in front of NC state legislators and the NC Board of Education”. The campaign team sent out an email last week, so if you are interested and want to be a member of the campaign, check it out!