- NC Policy Watch - http://www.ncpolicywatch.com -

Your Soapbox — On the front lines: Educators’ stories inside and outside the classroom


Thanks to the General Assembly, teachers have watched North Carolina fall from 25th to 46th in the nation in teacher pay since 2008. [1] In July, lawmakers stripped teachers of tenure and salary supplements for those who have obtained master’s degrees. [2]

Educators are also dealing with years of drastic cuts to supplies, textbooks [3], and teacher assistants [4].

Below are some stories from educators about their experiences in the classroom during this time. What are your experiences? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story. If you have photos to send of you or your classrooms, please email them to [email protected] [6]

Personal stories from North Carolina’s educators:

I remember when teachers were well respected. [7]

When I began teaching professionally, Ronald Reagan was president and my full-year salary was only $9,500 per year. I would not have survived the first year without the counsel of the veteran teachers in the building. They were so helpful and supportive. Most of what I learned in teacher-education classes was not helpful. There was a great team … [ More ] [7]

-32 years Before the Class

I’m Over It [8]

I’m a fifth year English teacher in NC. I took some time off to have a kid and spent that time in Massachusetts. If I had converted my license and taught up there, we might never have come back–but childcare was pricey, so I didn’t, and I was homesick, and I came right back to teaching.

In five years I have had no raises, and by switching … [ More ] [8]

-NC Teacher

Exit Stage NC [9]

I once worked in NC for three years, but bills were piling up, teachers’ work conditions worsen, and benefits were slowly being stripped away.

So I had no choice, but to work a weekend job. I decided to work for a company that provided services for people with disabilities. Even though I worked on the weekends and really enjoyed my job, I still … [ More ] [9]

-Justin Gee

My Teaching Experience [10]

I was hired in 1998 in Forsyth County at a very nice school. Good teachers, great PTA, administrators who dealt with discipline issues efficiently. I taught in an old trailer that was condemned a few years after I was hired. Other teachers were kind and helpful, and I made some lifelong friends in my seven years there.

I moved within the county … [ More ] [10]

-Legit 2 Quit

Two jobs too. [11]

I have been teaching for 22 years in the same NC county.

I am a national board certified teacher with full certification in biology and art. I graduated from two top schools with honors. I chose teaching because I wanted to make a difference and I love kids.

These last five years have been the hardest financially on my family. Our insurance … [ More ] [11]

-Virginia S.

Tenure is not a job for life, it is simply due process rights [12]

When I consider where to start this letter, I am having difficulty. There are so many issues with education in North Carolina and this nation as a whole. How could those who educate children be so devalued? How can those who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of so many in this state become at-will employees without career status? How can … [ More ] [12]

-Rachel Harkey

I can’t blame the Legislature Alone… [13]

I am a media coordinator at a middle school. For those of you going, “A media what-now?” a more descriptive term is teacher-librarian. And I am getting out at the end of the year, if I don’t find another job before then.

My middle school is amazingly diverse, with a lot of great teachers. The administration does what it can to support the … [ More ] [13]

-Frustrated Media Coordinator

Disappointed in NC [14]

I moved to NC because I fell in love with Charlotte; however, I have been here 1.5 years, and as an eight-year teacher, I want to quit education because of my experience here.

I am the mother of two boys and teaching in Charlotte for one year has forced me to bankruptcy.

No summer pay, no pay for my master’s, high insurance, tons of co-pays … [ More ] [14]


No help and no money [15]

I am an assistant principal. No, I still make no money.

I have only been in education for nine years with no raise, so it didn’t out me in the next bracket for administrator pay. I have two kids, one with cerebral palsy, and my husband is also a teacher.

I watch teaching assistants cry on payday.

One tells me she loves her job, but can’t … [ More ] [15]


Can’t Afford to Teach [16]

I grew up poor and worked hard to put myself through college. Because I had some great teachers, I finally decided to be a teacher myself and give back to my community.

I assumed that with a degree and teaching certifications, even National Board Certification, that I would no longer be poor.

I was wrong.

I have been teaching for 14 … [ More ] [16]


lack of funds [17]

Everything I’ve been reading and hearing tells me that my situation is nothing new, but I thought I’d share.  

We received our current textbooks in 2003 for the 2004 school year. Since that time, we’ve had two additional adoption periods, but were not allowed to adopt new texts because of the money involved. So, the books we have are now almost … [ More ] [17]

-Ms. Español

Disgruntled Librarian [18]

I would just like to add a comment that in the six years I’ve been teaching in North Carolina, the high school I work at has dropped from four people working in the Media Center to just one, me.  

I still get the same salary with that much more work.  

My county eliminated media assistants, which cut two full-time positions, and when the … [ More ] [18]


pay is not the only issue [19]

I taught middle school and high school science for 13 years.

I quit at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

Low pay was not my reason for leaving. Lack of respect and not being treated like a professional were at the top of my list.

I also disliked the lack of accountability for students. There was little to no consequences for poor … [ More ] [19]

-m mac

Two Jobs, no future [20]

After eight years and a master’s degree in NC, I make 43K a year. I actually make more than many because of the county I live in but still qualify for food stamps based on my family size. We haven’t applied yet, we’re not proud, just figure if you can pay, you should.  

I have a five year old, the sweetest little girl in the world. She wants to … [ More ] [20]


Broken Dream [21]

When I started Kindergarten, it was clear to my parents that I was a born teacher.

I was thrilled to be learning to read, write and do math, but was most excited to come home and show my younger brother what we did in school that day. Countless hours were spent playing “school” as I shared with my brother what I loved the most, learning. … [ More ] [21]


The “State” of Teaching [22]

I am a proud first-year teacher, and a cart teacher at that.

I would take a picture of my classroom to show, but I do not have my own classroom due to large class sizes and a facility not large enough to hold us all. I teach 90 students a day whom I love and adore.

I literally scrape by every month to make ends meet with maybe only 10 … [ More ] [22]


Troubled Days in Education [23]

I really love to work with my elementary children because I get pumped when they are able to read words that they once could not decode, write meaningful sentences and master the complexities of word problems. I also love their sweetness, laughter and budding little personalities! 

North Carolina use to be a great state to teach in! Nowadays, … [ More ] [23]


Wanting to leave [24]

I came to North Carolina from the California School System where I worked for many years as a substitute and then as a full-time Social Studies teacher.  

Each June during the decade of 2000 – 2010, teachers at my school would get a pink slip, then find out one week before school started that we still had a job. The stress was too much, and … [ More ] [24]

-Middle School Teacher Robeson County

Jeopardizing Education [25]

Many great teachers feel a calling to the profession, but that is not necessarily enough to make it a wise career path.

Our state legislators are currently causing serious harm to our state’s education system. The key to getting (and keeping) good teachers in the classroom is giving them incentives to seek and keep jobs as educators. … [ More ] [25]


My Personal Education Story [26]

Good afternoon,

As an NC educator I feel demoralized and under appreciated. Rather than being thanked and rewarded for my decision to attain my master’s degree I was told by a county commissioner last week that masters degrees are unnecessary in our profession and that you can do the job without it. I agree that the job can be done without a … [ More ] [26]

-A high school teacher, Iredell-Statesville School District.

Exhausting stressors [27]

The recent change in computer programs to enter report-card grades has eaten up my time and the energy I would much prefer to be expending on lesson planning. I have spent hours trying to access the program. So often it is not functional.

When I am able to log in, the steps are far from intuitive. I have received support from my team members, … [ More ] [27]

-Disappointed First grade Teacher

Frustrated Teacher [28]

As a young woman in my twenties born in North Carolina, graduate of a UNC school and current teacher in a North Carolina public school, I am frustrated with the current state of education.

In high school, I applied for the NC Teaching Fellows scholarship and was awarded the scholarship. I was optimistic about giving back to my state by being an … [ More ] [28]

-Jessica Smith, Seventh Grade Science Teacher, Winston Salem Forsyth County Schools, NC Teaching Fellow Graduate

I’m paying for a better life [29]

My husband and I are both in education. I am a counselor and he is a teacher.

Originally from NY, we came to NC in search of a better life. One that is more relaxed on the weekends and where there are available education positions.

Sure NY cut their teaching/counseling positions, along with pay freezes, and consolidating positions, but … [ More ] [29]


Suffering [30]

I am in my 5th year as a Special Education Teacher. I have 2 degrees and working on a degree in Educational Leadership. I knew when I went into this career teachers did not get paid their worth but I thought they would be able to live comfortably.

I am a single parent of 3 daughters, and — although they are all grown — my youngest is in her 2nd … [ More ] [30]


The State of Education [31]

I write this for my sons, who at 7 and 13, could be cheated out of the education they deserve because lawmakers have decided to attack the very education system that makes North Carolina so strong. I write this for my young colleagues who have NEVER gotten a raise — all the while working harder and harder, many going in to school to work on Sundays … [ More ] [31]

-Keith Maletta: Central Cabarrus High School

Culture Change [32]

It’s clear to say that our American education system needs a reform, and not just a reform, a culture change. Our world ranking is 33rd when comparing scores in reading, math and science (OECD-2009). This has made the government pass legislation that harms the education system instead of helping it in a scramble to improve our world ranking.

The … [ More ] [32]


Education cuts hurt kindergarten [33]

This school year has been my most difficult in my 10 years of teaching. We don’t have the supplies we need because of the deep budget cuts. Worst of all, I no longer have a full time TA. It is extremely difficult to work with the children and make sure you are meeting their needs when you have to share your TA with another class. I want to have … [ More ] [33]

-Karen H

Media Specialists teaching classes [34]

I am not alone, but I’m using my voice now, so thanks for the soapbox.

I am a Media Specialist in a middle school that due to class sizes and mis-managed districting has to teach three regular classes a day + continue to care for the media center + handle when classes visit the media center DURING my class + all the day to day technology stuff … [ More ] [34]

-Unhappy Camper

We feel very disrespected. [35]

We feel very disrespected. Uh, we didn’t think there was much more that they could take away from us. Uh, but they’ve taken out a lot of assistant positions. They’ve taken away our masters’ pay, so there’s no incentive for us to… to continue our learning and to… to become better professionals.

It … [ More ] [35]

-Anca Stefan, Durham County

Dear Fellow North Carolinians [36]

Dear Fellow North Carolinians,

Hello, my name is Lisa Gerardi and I am a teacher in a title I school in Durham, NC. People say that teaching is “the hardest job you’ll ever love” and I have found that to be true. Like so many other teachers, I care deeply about the students and families I serve, and I willingly spend countless unpaid hours … [ More ] [36]

-Lisa Gerardi

I have always known that it was my calling to work with kids. [37]

I have always known that it was my calling to work with kids. I knew that I had a love and passion for learning and for teaching, particularly science. What I didn’t know was that the profession that I so longed for was the most undervalued, unappreciated, and severely underpaid professions out there.

This is my 5th year; I started teaching in … [ More ] [37]

-Tiffany McEachern, Earth/Environmental Science and Biology Science Teacher at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, NC

Tell us your story here [5].