The only reason that I can still afford to teach is because my father died. Seriously, if he hadn’t died and left me a little bit of money, I would have had to find another profession that pays more.
I was thinking about that today while I was at an event as part of my responsibilities as Arizona 2016 Teacher of the Year. I realized, for the first time, that this honor that I now have is solely because of my father. He wasn’t a rich man, so he didn’t leave me a fortune or anything, but he left me enough to pay down my house so that my mortgage payments are very low. That very low monthly payment has made all the difference in my financial solvency.
Before I go any further, I want to make one thing clear: I would rather have my father back than the money he left me that has allowed me to continue teaching. As much as I love teaching, I loved my father a gazillion times more. (And he impacted me in ways that are certainly more valuable than anything related to finances, but that’s a different blog. I hope when he watches me from heaven that he values the manner in which I have used his money and his wisdom).
With that said, I do value that I have been able to keep teaching because of him. Solely because of him. However, even with the money from my father, I barely make ends meet. When other teachers have to leave the profession because they can’t pay their bills, I get it. I totally and completely get it. Yes, I can continue teaching, but—no—I can’t afford to do much of anything besides pay for basic necessities.
As I drove away from the event today, an event where I was able to advocate for public education, I couldn’t help but recognize the irony that this year’s Teacher of the Year is only a teacher because of the death of her father.
How many other potential Teachers of the Year have we lost in Arizona because they simply couldn’t afford to teach? How many students did those teachers not get to influence because they couldn’t afford to do so? How many students have lost out because of it?
It makes me sad.