Rancher. Airbnb host. Dog boarder. Governess to children of billionaires. Bartender. Jewelry welder. Minor league baseball mascot. Sailing instructor. Wedding videographer. Those are a sampling of the side hustles that teachers take on during the summer months (and sometimes year-round).
While the breadth of these ancillary jobs demonstrates just how multitalented teachers can be, it also speaks to a more sobering truth.
Most teachers who work second jobs do it because they need the extra income.
Statistics on teacher pay show why. Eighty-two percent of 1,000-plus classroom teachers polledacross the nation recently said they currently or previously worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. The average starting teacher salary in the 2020-2021 school year (the most recent data available) is $42,845, compared with $55,260 for recent college graduates overall, and about 40 percent of districts pay starting teacher salaries below $40,000.
Further, when adjusted for inflation, the average teacher salary is $3,644 less than it was a decade ago. So, not only do starting teachers’ income levels lag behind their similarly educated peers, but persistently depressed wage levels threaten teachers’ ability to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
Preparing to teach and to do additional work
Logan Vermeer, who will be starting his first full-time teaching job as a 2nd grade teacher this fall at Rogers Elementary in Rogers, Minn., is no stranger to holding down second jobs. While student-teaching, he maintained a flourishing wedding photography and videography business with his wife. He estimated that he shot and edited about 25 wedding videos throughout the year, each one taking at least 40 hours. He’s hoping to pull back on the work this year, suggesting that he’ll take on only the editing portion and leave the actual videography to someone else.
Already, Vermeer has seen enough examples of teachers taking on extra work to lead him to believe that it’s the norm for his profession.
“I have quite a few friends who teach. Most of them do something during the summer, unless they’ve been teaching for 20-plus years,” Vermeer said. “Everybody around my age either teaches summer school, is a bartender, or works at a summer camp—things like that.”
Life expenses keep teachers working second jobs
Recent Pew Research Center reporting corroborates Vermeer’s comments regarding the greater likelihood that younger and less experienced teachers take on nonteaching-related summer jobs.
But plenty of older, experienced teachers continue to work outside education during summer months to cover various expenses, too.
Aaron Bishop has been teaching for 28 years and working as a minor league baseball mascot for 25 years, from April to September. Years ago, he considered giving up the mascot gig. But he decided to continue donning the full-body Tremor the Dancing Dinosaur costume through the summer heat when the first of his three children prepared to head off to college, and Bishop was getting ready to pay for it. He now thinks he’ll keep it up until his youngest child, a senior in high school, completes college.
Carolyn Breault can relate. Currently a technology teacher for grades 3-5, she just completed her 33rd year as a teacher. And this summer, she returned to Regatta Point Community Sailing in Worcester, Mass., where she first learned to sail as a kid. She’s working there five days a week, teaching adults how to sail and performing other duties at the sailing center and she enjoys the job.
“I love that I can bring sailing into adults’ lives,” Breault said. She also acknowledged that the extra income helps. “I have a huge tax bill,” she said.
“Until I had kids, I always had a part-time job in the summer,” said Breault, whose children are grown now. “Of the teachers I know, many of them tutor or have a second job. A lot of people who have a second job do it because they’re not married and they need extra income. Or they have kids in college and they need extra income.”
Will salary bumps be enough?
Recent legislative pushes have brought the issue of teacher pay to the forefront and, in some instances, led to a bump up in teachers’ financial circumstances.
Lawmakers in 23 states this past legislative session proposed bills that would raise minimum teacher salaries, provide annual bonuses, and give paraeducators and special education teachers a boost, according to FutureEd, a Georgetown University research center that studies education policy. As of June, six states had passed them: Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington. Further, Democrats in both the U.S. House and Senate recently introduced bills aiming to get teachers to a $60,000 base salary.
Those efforts to increase teacher pay were prompted by worsening teacher shortages. The Teacher Salary Project, a nonprofit aiming to raise awareness of working conditions and salaries of public school teachers, has sought to better understand the link between the two. A survey of 1,167 current classroom teachers conducted during the spring of 2021 found that only 34 percent of respondents reported feeling confident that their salaries are sufficient to keep them in the classroom long term.
Although the promise of pending salary increases for teachers is good news, whether it will be enough to address overall teacher satisfaction and shortages, remains to be seen.
“Over the years, we’ve had to learn more, teach more, accommodate more,” said Breault, noting some of the factors that may have led to teacher vacancies. “We pretty much take whoever we can get. There are no substitute teachers.”
Elizabeth Heubeck, Staff Writer contributed to this article.