Like countless N.C. educators, I’m forced to work a second job to make ends meet. Unlike most of my colleagues, my second job isn’t retail, it’s saving lives.
Every Friday after I finish grading coursework, I head to my weekend job as an EMT/firefighter in Harnett County and pull 12-hour shifts.
Working as a first responder is incredibly fulfilling. But it also takes a toll physically and emotionally. As much as I love helping people in need, I shouldn’t have to work a second job to make ends meet. But if I didn’t, I couldn’t pay my bills, chip away at student debt, or purchase supplies for students.
Being an EMT/firefighter is draining. My routine helps me stay physically fit, but I’m exhausted all the time. But I do my job day in and day out, because I have a responsibility to my community.
Unfortunately, legislative politicians refuse to do their jobs by negotiating a budget giving educators the resources needed to provide quality education. They would rather give billion-dollar tax cuts to millionaires and big corporations, while students and teachers pay the price.
I’m in debt after earning a master’s degree in education, partly because N.C. stopped offering master’s pay to teachers with advanced degrees. So I’m saddled with debt.
At the same time, politicians have let funding for classroom supplies wither away. I receive about $1 per student each year for supplies like paint, clay, and paper. While that’s pretty good compared to other area school art programs, I still spend about $100 on supplies every month to ensure my students have what they need.
This is what countless N.C. educators will continue to endure until lawmakers come to an agreement on school funding and start paying educators what we’re worth. At the end of the day, it seems lawmakers couldn’t care less about depriving teachers and students.
I love working both jobs. I enjoy helping people as a first responder, and it’s gratifying to watch students who’ve struggled in another class shine in mine. Whether it’s pulling someone from a burning car or teaching a child how to paint, I put a tremendous amount of care, energy and effort into my jobs. I expect lawmakers to do the same.
When politicians return to Raleigh in April, I hope N.C. lawmakers — and voters — will listen to what we’re asking for.
Shauna McNeill is a Greenwood Elementary School art teacher