‘Sometimes, I just have to do it’
Teachers struggle with working second jobs to boost income
OKLAHOMA CITY | Hundreds of thousands of American schoolteachers work second jobs to boost their income. They speak of missing time with family, struggles to complete lesson plans and nagging doubts over whether it’s worth the sacrifices to stay in their profession.
Nationwide, 18 percent of teachers work jobs outside school, supplementing the average fulltime teacher salary of $55,100 by an average of $5,100, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Education Department, from the 2015-2016 school year. That is up slightly from 16 percent in 2011-2012.
Teaching is hardly the only profession where people pick up second jobs to pay their bills, and many have the flexibility to do other work in the summer when school is out. But their numbers help explain the outrage behind the teacher revolts in states including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
The Associated Press asked moonlighting teachers in four states to describe how they balance the extra hours with their day jobs and family responsibilities.
After a day of instructing first-graders at Oologah-Talala Public Schools in Oklahoma, Melinda Dale puts on a janitor’s uniform and begins cleaning the very same school building.
“I usually do it right after school,” she said, “because working with first grade all day, I tend to lose my energy pretty fast.”
Ms. Dale, who has taught for six years, earns $32,000 a year as a teacher. She spends about 15 hours a week on the janitorial work, which at $10 an hour allows her to earn nearly a quarter of what she makes teaching.
She is trying to save money for college for the oldest of her three children, a high school senior. Lyft driver
As Lyft driver Stefanie Lowe crisscrosses the metro Phoenix area in her Jeep, many of her passengers are surprised to learn that she is also a full-time teacher.
“It’s super busy to drive during the week, but sometimes I just have to do it,” said Ms. Lowe, 28.
She earns just under $37,000 as a first-grade teacher at Tuscano Elementary School. She rents a room, instead of having her own apartment, to keep her housing costs down, but to make ends meet she drives for Lyft on nights and weekends and also picks up tutoring jobs. She drives more during the week when she has upcoming expenses like a car registration payment, medical bills or supplies for her classroom.
By 7 a.m. the next school day, she’s back at her classroom.
John Andros knows the drill well after more than a decade of double duty teaching high school and then working at Dick’s Sporting Goods. He packs lunch and dinner, puts an extra set of clothes in the car for his retail job, and sets off knowing he won’t be home before his daughters go to bed.
There was a time earlier in his career, when he was making less than $40,000 teaching, when he considered giving it up to pursue a management job at Dick’s that would pay over $50,000.
Now in his 19th year of teaching, with two master’s degrees, he has reached top scale — $88,000 annually — as a special-education teacher at Plainville High School in Connecticut. But he still works 15 hours a week at Dick’s and tutors because he feels like he’s still catching up financially after years of much lower earnings in an area with high property taxes and a high cost of living. Photographer
Despite more than three decades of teaching experience, Christi Phillips keeps up her longtime second career as a children’s photographer. She enjoys working both jobs, but she feels like she doesn’t really have a choice.
“Thirty-two years, I have to have a second job,” said Ms. Phillips, who teaches first grade at George Ward Elementary School in Mill Creek, West Virginia. “Isn’t that sad? That’s very sad. Everybody I know has two or three.”
Ms. Phillips makes $52,000 teaching. That’s enough, she says, for her utilities and a car payment. The money from the second job is needed if she and her husband want to eat out at a nice restaurant, buy a second a vehicle or take a vacation.
Melinda Dale (left) joins other Oolagah, Oklahoma, teachers at a school funding protest. Ms. Dale works as a janitor at the same school building after teaching first-graders all day.
Stefanie Lowe earns just under $37,000 as a first-grade teacher, and drives for Lyft on nights and weekends. “It’s super busy to drive during the week, but sometimes I just have to do it,” she said.
“Thirty-two years, I have to have a second job,” said teacher Christi Phillips, who keeps a second career as a children’s photographer. “Isn’t that sad? That’s very sad.”