Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Teacher's Fate

Associated Press 

photo taken in St. George, Utah- April 2011

"I think these turned out okay, honey", she says as she closely inspects a dish from the dishwasher, putting it away. Conscientious homemaker? Maybe. These days the dishes need a closer look since they're washed without dishwasher detergent. "I just put the dishwasher on the sanitize anti-bacterial setting and hope for the best!" says Jessie Tanner, 30 of North Carolina. They've recently hit a rough patch, but nothing they haven't seen before. "Well, we're on our last 2 rolls of toilet paper, we don't have any dishwasher detergent, I think we might have one more load of laundry soap, and I've got about 25 baby wipes left.What else? Yesterday the last cup of milk we had froze so I poured ice chips over my cereal and waited for it to melt a little. Oh, and we used our last pocket change to buy a small bag of cat litter, cause you can't really get by without that!"

What has landed the Tanners in this financial blight? Are they among the 9% of unemployed Americans in this country? Hardly. Timm Tanner, 32, has worked at least 2 jobs for the last 10 years. One of which used to be a high school teacher, and not just any teacher but 'Teacher of the Year'. A very talented teacher, one that has been recognized by his students, his peers, and his superiors. So what happened? When the Tanners moved to North Carolina 4 years ago they knew what they were in for. Teacher's salary schedules are public information, and shows you your entire career in a table projecting the next 30 years. There are no secrets, and the future doesn't look exceptionally bright for teachers in America. Worse still if there is a salary freeze, which has been in effect since Timm's first year teaching. At year 4 he is still making the same salary he did when he started, with no end in sight. There is no telling when the freeze will be lifted, and he will never resume the same year's salary that he is entitled based on the schedule he was hired on. The Tanners have one car, their two daughters Bella, 6, and Fiona, 2, qualify for Medicaid and Jessie hasn't had health coverage in 4 years. At times they've even qualified for food stamps, though they haven't used them since moving to North Carolina, despite Timm working as many as 17 hours a day. Such is the plight of teachers in America. Even for 'Teachers of the Year'.

"I told her just to enjoy this last time we'll have to go through this. Right now we have less than a dollar in our bank account, our credit cards are overdrawn and our gas tank is on empty. But this is the last time!" explains Timm. "I just took a job with Carolina's Healthcare and start next week." Timm has left teaching high school and instead will be training physicians in technology applications- a major loss to public education, and doubtless a disappointment for his returning students in the fall. "I have to take care of my family, number one, and I can't continue to do that this way." Timm explains.

This isn't the first time a teacher has left education for (literally) greener pastures, and it won't be the last. There is little incentive for talented teachers to enter the teaching field, and even less for them to stay. Until this country changes it's priorities and pays teachers a salary commensurate with their worth and their abilities, it will continue to happen in increasing numbers. Timm's new job is a perfect example. With Carolina's Healthcare, he will start at a salary 50% more than his two jobs combined, working one job with hours that will leave him with time for his family, and the money to take care of them. 

"We're really excited to move onto this next phase in our lives. And to go grocery shopping!" Jessie exults.

*No details in this article have been exaggerated 

14 comments:

marc said...

It is pretty sad that our country doesn't support teachers the way it should. The students will be missing out on a great teacher, but I'm glad you'll be able to buy food. :)

michelle said...

Ditto to Marc's comment.

Here's to working only one job and having nights and weekends free!!

{natalie} said...

wow.

yay for the new job.

i wish teachers were valued more b/c it is such an important profession. good luck to timm with the new career.

Jill said...

You really should submit this as an article to your local paper!

It's highly disturbing that he has had to work multiple jobs and you guys have still had to struggle so much. I'm very happy for your family to have this new job and more comfortable living!

Jill said...

What the heck, Marc commented?!

Hannah said...

I hope this new job changes so many things for you two! Soak it up!

(And this post me even more stoked to catch up next week- I can so hear your voice while reading it, haha!)

rmt said...

And to think at the moment I'm a single mom working my way through college to BECOME one of these said teachers...oye...

Congrats, Timm! Definitely a loss for the school system, but so exciting for the whole family!

Charlotte said...

I agree with all the other comments expressing regret that such a great teacher like Timm isn't being supported by the system. And I am just so excited for Timm's new job and for the remarkable difference it's going to make in your family's life! I love you all so much! (And here's to unfrozen milk, right?)

paws said...

Very well said.

Susan@besusan.com said...

I'm happy for Timm's new prospects,more family time and no more waiting for the next check!

It is too bad about the loss of a darn good teacher who loves to teach. So sad. Sad,sad,sad, very sad, SAD!

Holy moly, a comment from Marc!

Trisha said...

best article ever.
jessie, you could make money writing gems like this. guess now, you don't really need to, but just in case you ever want to... definitely could.

Michelle said...

Can't believe Marc commented, either! I totally agree with what you said. Since I am restarting my life and will be heading back to grad school, a lot of people asked if I was going into teaching. But I thought....why would I do that? I will actually need to support myself! It makes me sick that another talented, respected and loved teacher has to leave education for greener pastures. I am, however, thrilled for you and your family.

Tasha said...

I read once that a significant %age of teachers leave the field after only 5 years. Having been a teacher, I'm part of that statistic. It is a sad sad fact of our priorities. Congratulations on Timm's new job!

Teacher Resume said...

Fantastic write-up, continue the good work! Good Luck for your new Job

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