Monday, May 20, 2024

MY TURN: Why I'm leaving teaching

by ERIKA WILLY/Guest opinion
| March 17, 2023 1:00 AM

Friday, Feb. 10, I turned in my formal resignation. Come June, I will end my teaching career. After 12 years, no more. There are multiple factors that contributed to this gut-wrenching decision.

Why I’m leaving teaching:

I don’t make enough money. It’s no secret that teachers are underpaid. With the rising cost of living in this area, I cannot hope to afford a house or even rent and live on my own. As a professional who has a master’s degree, and works two other jobs outside teaching, this is absolutely gutting. I’ve lived here my entire life.

The vilification of teachers has become more and more prevalent in recent years, especially in North Idaho. The recently failed levies are just more proof of a lack of support and misinformation surrounding public education. The blatant lies that teachers are “pushing an agenda” and “teaching woke-ism” are believed by so many with absolutely zero evidence to back it up. Most of these people have never set foot in a classroom beyond their own education.

So many of those same people who spread and believe the lies will rejoice in my leaving or dismiss it with an eye roll saying: “She knew what she was getting into.” The truth is, I did know what I was getting into. My family has taught in the area for over 35 years. One of my favorite stories from my mom’s teaching career is how she taught her first kindergarten class a cooking unit — from the kitchen of her own home. Historically, this community has cherished, trusted and celebrated its educators. How quickly we turned into villains in the very community we grew up in.

Teachers just want their students to feel safe and loved and to learn and grow as humans. The only agenda I’ve ever pushed is trying to get my students to turn in their missing work and to remember to put a name on their paper.

This job is emotionally exhausting. I know most are, but a teacher’s job is uniquely so. We carry the burdens of our students, and that doesn’t end when the work day is over. We worry, constantly. Are they getting enough to eat? Are they being supported best? What could I do differently to help them? Are they going to live through the night? It’s a lot. It never ends.

To all my students, past and present, please know that this decision has nothing to do with you. Students have been the absolute highlight and joy of my career. Watching all you have and continue to accomplish is incredible and I feel so honored to have been a small part of your lives. If all teaching was just students inside a classroom, I’d teach forever.

I’m incredibly sad that it has come to this. I love teaching. I’m a great teacher. And my story, unfortunately, is not unique.

Erika Willy is a resident of Hayden.