ROANOKE, Va. – Elizabeth Sweet has taught elementary school students for a decade and says in order to make ends meet, she still has to work extra jobs.
“On Saturday, I work at a veterinary clinic. On Sunday, I’m on staff at my church," explained Sweet. “Very quickly after I got my career started, I realized my teacher salary is not going to be enough.”
Sweet did not disclose where she teaches in order to protect her job, but said that many of her fellow educators also work multiple jobs to get by.
“They do all types of work: tutoring, waitressing, grocery store cashiering," Sweet said. "There’s a really high likelihood you’ll find a teacher working outside of the school building.”
Del. Sam Rasoul said one of those encounters led him to write an emotional tweet about teacher pay.
Screw any system in which a teacher has to deliver pizza after school to make ends meet.— Sam Rasoul (@Sam_Rasoul) September 30, 2020
She just delivered our dinner tonight and she thanked me for substituting in her school.
I feel so mad for her. #ThankATeacher
Rasoul tweeted that a teacher recognized him while at her second job delivering food and that he "felt so mad for her.”
“I had a teacher at a local elementary school who’s coming to my front door delivering pizzas to supplement her income," Rasoul said. “This system sucks. I am so upset that we have a system where teachers are not held up as the heroes that they are.”
When looking at public school teachers' salaries, Virginia ranks 32nd among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to the Virginia Department of Education’s latest report.
During that time, the 2017-18 school year, Virginia’s average teacher salary was $51,994 a year, far below the United States average of $60,477 a year.
Sweet said Rasoul’s tweet showed the realities many teachers face and hope parents understand how many educators are under financial stress.
“Teachers are struggling,” Sweet said. “Think about how hard your teachers are working and if they are being compensated fairly.”
She said she will continue her teaching career for as long as she can for one reason: the kids in her classroom.
“When the kids walk through my door, and I’m able to work with them face to face and see the lightbulb moment, that’s my motivation," Sweet said.