Local Resident, & Teacher, Explains What Teachers Are Fighting For 


By D. Lawrence, San Tan Valley Resident and Local Teacher

Today Copper Basin K-8 in San Tan Valley, AZ conducted a walk-in. There are many teachers that live in our San Tan community, and a few like myself that live in Copper Basin. I’m not your run of the mill teacher; teaching is my second profession because I actively retired from the Arizona Army National Guard. I have served my country, the state of Arizona, and I wanted to serve our community by becoming a teacher. This is my third year at Copper Basin K-8. My first year I was a student teacher, but I was lucky enough to have my own classroom and get paid $120.00 a day. I only got paid the days I worked; I did not get paid when the school was on breaks or for any hours after the “normal” school day. During my first year as a teacher, I worked two part-time jobs; I was the store manager at the Family Dollar store in Coolidge and I worked at our local Walmart. I was also completing my master’s degree in education. I had to get my master’s to offset the money I was going to lose becoming a teacher. I went from making $80,000 a year to $37, 000. Unlike many teachers I do not have any student loans; my service to our country helped pay for most of my degrees.

One of the main issues teachers have is not getting paid what they are worth. This is one profession where teachers must have a bachelor’s degree in education to be certified with Arizona Department of Education. We are always attending various trainings to maintain our certificate to teach as well as the trainings for the different changes in the curriculum that each district adopts every year. Sometimes our school will have training, but there are times districts will not pay for specialty training outside the school district. There are two ways teachers receive raises. One is to go back to school and receive a master’s or a doctorate degree. The other way is if you stay in a district, the pay scale allows for a small raise annually of $510.00; if the district does not freeze the pay scale. Once unfrozen, those teachers do not get retro pay even if they had to endure a pay freeze for 1 or more years. 

Some people might think $37,000 is a lot of money for someone who only works 200 days a year. However, let me break this down for you. First, we pay taxes and into our retirement. I myself pay around $9,500 a year in taxes and retirement, which now I am at $27,500 take home. So, break it down by our 23 pay periods which I make $1,655.00 after taxes, I take home $1,227 every two weeks, based off an 80-hour work week I make $23.13. Based on the idea that teachers work 8-hour days for 200 days, which is only 1,600 hours total; sign me up I want to be a teacher now! 

Hold on a minute…the average teacher in this school works from about 7:00 am – 5:00 pm that is 10 hours a day. During this time a teacher is planning for the next day, grading papers, working on required reports, making copies on one working copy machine in the school, teaching students, some might be coaching, after school tutoring, etc. There are also teachers like myself that put in a few hours on the weekend because we need a break from school to go home and be with our family in the evenings. So, average teaches might work up to 60 hours or more a week including the weekends, which is about 2,400 hours or $15.42 an hour. That still not bad, but teachers also have training. Some trained over their entire spring break; Monday – Friday, 10 half days, or 40 hours. Which they did not get paid for. The rest of the teachers who did not train over spring break will be doing it after school ends in June and will lose 2 weeks of their 6-week summer vacation without pay! Now we are at $15.16 an hour. (Chick-fil-a advertises $13.50 for untrained workers.) There are also dedicated teachers that want to make sure their classrooms are ready for students when they begin their school year. So, they come in over the break, and take a week (or two) to get the classroom set up. If teachers work during their breaks, they are not getting paid, so if a teacher works about 5 hours a day that is about another 125 hours in the classroom or 2,565 hours or $14.42 an hour. We can continue with after-school events, like Meet the Teacher Night, or at Copper Basin we have Bingo for Books, Howdy-To Night, and Monster House just to name a few that teachers do not get paid for. Each night is at least two hours or more depending on the amount of preparation needed for the event. 

All the money we make does not put into account the amount of money Teachers use to decorate their classrooms, so it will feel inviting and make the students feel comfortable while they are in our care. Don’t even get me started about if the school runs out of supplies then teachers go out and pay out of their own pockets to buy those needed materials to continue to educate your children.

Now if you are a new teacher just coming out of college, you would make $33,000 and have a $50,000 student loan to go along with your house, car, Johnson utility bill (which you never know what you’ll pay), electric bill, and groceries, which are the basic necessities. A new teacher works the same 2,565 hours, if not more, to make about $12.87 an hour.

Teachers are highly educated professionals helping to build a strong community. Somewhere along the line, people have forgotten how they learned to read, write, and even do some math. If it was not for a teacher, they would not be where they are today. 

It would be great for a teacher to finally get paid and be recognized for the number of hours they work. If the state decides to give teachers the raise that is deserved, our district will still fall below most of the school districts in the area. We will still need the Override to bring our district to the level, so we will stop losing teachers to the surrounding school districts and other states that pay more than this district. Every year our district hires 30 – 100 plus teachers. How do you build a community of teacher if they are always leaving to get better-paying positions in other districts?

We are handling up to 32 different attitudes, personalities, and different ways each child learns to Read, Write, Math, Science, and Social Studies. I challenge any member of our legislative or the Governor himself to come in and teach these students for a week and then come back and tell the teachers to their faces they are only worth a 1% raise. 

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