North Carolina Teachers Take On Second Jobs in Retail
While students were enjoying their winter break, many teachers in NC were manning cash registers and folding clothes are retail outlets. With NC teacher pay among the lowest in the country, many teachers feel forced to work a second job to make ends meet.
The image of an overworked teacher juggling different jobs is more than a movie trope.
“Hi, welcome to Ann Taylor,” Jill Rattinger says enthusiastically.
At Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, Rattinger moves from the fitting rooms to the racks, hanging striped tweed dresses and folding bejeweled tops.
The seventh-grade teacher at Hilburn Aacademy in Wake County has been in education for 15 years.
So how did she end up at a women’s clothing store? Three months ago she was shopping here. The managers were helping her out, and they clicked.
“Yeah, I actually came here looking for an outfit for Open Parent Night, and then I ended up walking out with a job.”
NC Ranks 42nd In Teacher Pay
But she’s not just working here because she thinks the clothes are cute. Like many North Carolina teachers, she says she needed an extra job to help make ends meet.
“I have two kids in college and I’m a single parent and it’s really hard to have to pay for that, so I took this on to help them,” she explains.
Nationally, North Carolina ranks 42nd in teacher pay with an average salary of about $47,783.
The state also ranks dead last in terms of salary raises over the last decade (from 2003-04 to 2013-14), based on the latest National Education Association report.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, data from a few years ago show that about a fourth of teachers hold a second job.
‘Frustrating Not Being Able To Support Yourself In Your Career’
“I feel like in order not to breaking even, in order to not stress my finances, I do need a second job right now,” says Kacey Gray, a second-year teacher in Pitt County.
Gray, who makes $35,000 a year, initially quit her job at Old Navy when she became a teacher, then quickly realized she needed it.
“It’s just frustrating getting a college degree and not being able to support yourself in your career,” she says.
Sometimes she runs into some of her students and their parents at the store.
“I feel like they understand, but at the same time I also feel like it kind of takes away from my professionalism.”
Gray’s colleague, Elyse Cannon, works at American Eagle Outfitters. The history and psychology teacher says some of her high school students will just pop in to say hello and that her job even comes up in class.
“They ask ‘why do you have to have a second job?’” Cannon says. “And I explain to them like ‘you know, it just the way pay is and it’s the way North Carolina is’ and it’s not to knock the state because I love our state, but it’s a little ridiculous sometimes.”
Cannon says she makes about $300 to to $400 extra dollars a month. She’s been engaged for two years now, still saving up money for a wedding.