South Carolina teachers are quitting by the thousands every school year, in part because they feel they aren't making enough money.
Many of the teachers who stick around find themselves having to take on a second job — or even a third job — during the school year. At public forums and in interviews, teachers have lamented that second jobs are now the norm, not the exception, for people who spend their days educating children.
This year, state lawmakers have vowed to overhaul the education system in the wake of The Post and Courier's "Minimally Adequate" series chronicling the challenges facing the state's schools. The question is no longer whether to give teachers a raise — the question is how much. Preliminary budgets have teachers getting anywhere from a 4-percent to a 10-percent raise, but some teachers say neither would be enough to make up for lost time.
Here are the stories of five Charleston-area public school teachers doing work on the side, as told in their own words.
Spanish teacher, Ashley Ridge High School. Farmer's market soap vendor.
"When I was in high school, one of my favorite teachers was my Spanish teacher. I don’t know why, but I just felt very drawn to language ... Actually she works in my district, so I get to see her pretty frequently now, which is awesome, and she always tells everyone, ‘This is my baby!’ She’s the one who inspired me to be a Spanish teacher.
"I graduated college in 2016 in the fall, and then I did six months teaching English in Spain to elementary students, and then 2018-19 was my first year. So I’m almost done with my second year of teaching ... I worked all through student teaching so I could pay for Spain because I wasn’t being paid much over there, and I’ve been working since I started teaching here, also.
"I’ve sold popsicles, I have delivered Christmas trees dressed up as an elf, and currently I sell soap and sugar scrubs and items like that at farmers’ markets and events.
"For all of the jobs that I’ve worked, you have to be very people-oriented and very expressive. You still have to entertain, which is what I feel like I also have to do in the classroom. So if I’ve been teaching all week and then on Saturday if I have to be 100 percent outgoing and pulling people in, I am so tired. And then I just need my introvert time to recharge.
"Most of my friends who are around my age, they work a second job on the weekend, whether it be at the country club or they serve at restaurants.
"When I was selling popsicles, there was a student from my school who worked there, also. And so the next year she was a senior, and it was kind of strange. I would see her and at work I would be 'Taylor' and then at school I’d be 'Ms. Moore.' So she didn’t know how to react to it."
Adolescent teacher, East Cooper Montessori Charter School. Graduate student, College of Charleston. Bike taxi driver.
"On weekdays, I’ll work about three or four hours and just kind of hang out by hotels just hoping that somebody needs a ride from point A to B. Sometimes you kind of cruise around and wait on that. A lot of times I’ll bring out stuff to grade.
"On weekends, it’s a lot longer. I’ll get out at 4:30 or 6 and I’ll be out until about 2 a.m. So it is a grind. That Friday day from 7 in the morning until 2 in the morning, of work spread between two jobs, can be hard to say the least.
"I always tell people it’s exhilarating though, as well. You get to the end of an 8-hour shift and it’s kind of like you’ve just run a marathon, and it beats paying for a cycling class.
"I would never say I shortchange my students. I really make an effort to not do that. But at the same time there is that tug.
"I think a 4-percent raise is too low, still ... I would say (my wife and I) are paying about 20 percent of our annual income or more than that on educational expenses to improve ourselves ... I probably put in close to 65 hours a week, and I do that because at this point in my life I’m kind of able to.
"But me and my wife are trying to have kids, and when that happens I’m not going to be able to offer a life for my family. So a lot of this money I’m making now, we’re trying to save and be smart about, but later on I don’t want to be working 65 hours a week to support my family because being absent to make a few extra bucks is not worth it. I’d like that raise so that I can be there and experience life outside of work."
Ninth grade social studies teacher, Berkeley High School. Owner of Holey City Bagels. Uber driver.
"I really had no choice from Day 1 of teaching to find something else. I actually have two other jobs. I Uber drive, on Sunday mornings usually, just doing airport runs for the tourists leaving town. And I do the bagels on Saturdays, generally.
"On Thursdays, I go in to my commissary kitchen before work — I wake up super early — and I go and I mix my dough, then I let it sit in the walk-in all day, and then I go back after school and roll the bagels by hand and do my other prep work.
"And then on Friday nights, I have to go to bed right when I get off work — usually by 7 o’clock, 7:30, I hope to be asleep to wake up at 2 and go into the kitchen and bake them for that Saturday morning.
"It’s a lot of work. And then the markets usually run until 1 or 2 o’ clock, depending on which one it is ... Doing it one day a week, I make just slightly less than I do in a week of teaching.
"I’m very open with my students about what’s going on with me, but that’s one of the things I love about teaching. Building relationships with the kids is a lot of fun.
"And I’ll say, before I became a teacher, I used to be like a lot of people are: 'Oh, teachers make less because they work less.' And you don’t realize how much — I mean, I never realized how much time you have to spend on school during the year. It’s very difficult to make time to do anything else."
Child development teacher, James Island Elementary. Jewelry designer. Furniture finisher.
"I started my own little business about a year ago. It kind of just started as a passion project. It was a good stress relief for me. I make jewelry and things like that, so coming home from work and sitting down and doing something kind of mindless like that was so therapeutic.
"And then I was inspired by a friend to start selling my stuff, and my family and people were encouraging me to do that. Once I started going to some local markets, I have been totally addicted to it since then. I have a website, I sell on Etsy, and then I do local markets — just events, there’s nothing regular, but when my schedule allows it, I try to do it on the weekends.
"I also paint. My husband and I finish furniture, and that as of right now is just kind of a side hobby. I mean, any money we make from that is what we use to travel or do things, so in the past year that has made a huge difference for me.
"The teaching salary just barely pays the bills, and even then, I mean, I’m very, very lucky that I have a husband who helps me out. If I was single, I just definitely wouldn’t be able to do the same things I do now. For sure, it just barely pays the bills, and that’s not even including student loans.
"So I’m working toward my master’s degree and I’ll have a step increase, but the thing about that is it’s kind of a catch-22 because now I have student loans that are really ridiculous. So I am really trying to figure out when I get out of school how I’m going to pay my student loans back.
"They want master level teachers but they don’t offer to pay for any of the schooling. I’m really passionate about it, and I really enjoy going to school, but now I’m kind of regretting it because I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills."
Science teacher, Wando High School. Ticket seller and tour guide, Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens.
"For me anyway, what I do at Boone Hall, although it’s very similar, it’s almost completely stress-free to be real honest about it. I don’t have to deal with behavior issues, I don’t have to deal with parents, and for the most part when I take a group of tourists around the plantation, which is usually between 30 and 40 people at a time, I have their full, undivided attention for a full 30 minutes ... You don’t have that in the classroom.
"Teaching for me is actually a second career. I’m also an RN, and I decided to move into teaching, I think it’s been 20 years ago now. ... I think kids are our most valuable commodity. They’re our investment in the future.
"The recession hit, my wife was out of work for some time, and that got me thinking about looking for a second job so that we could just basically survive. ... It was house payments, it was utilities, and then credit cards kept us going for two or three years, but you’ve got to start paying that back at some point in time.
"I was sitting down talking with a younger teacher over at Wando, 26 years old, and as we’re progressing through the conversation, one of the comments that this person made was, ‘Well, I guess it’s time for me to find a second job, settle down and start saving some money.’
"And, unfortunately, that’s becoming the norm in this profession. And because of that we’re losing qualified people. … They’re staying for a short time, three to five years at the most, and then they’re gone. You know, they’re young enough to move into another profession, and off they go."