By JADA PENN
Capital News Service
LANSING — Teachers are finding new careers outside of the classroom due to what they see as lack of appreciation for their work and low pay.
There is no question that COVID-19 has changed the lives of educators over the past two years, and some have found new career interests during the pandemic.
Jeremy Hyler is among them.
Hyler was an English and science teacher for 21 years at Fulton Middle School in Middleton in Gratiot County, and left teaching in September 2021. He currently works for a nonprofit organization, the Center for Collaborative Classroom, as an education consultant, helping school districts around the state implement new curriculum.
Hyler said he didn’t think his district had the students’ best interests in mind and wanted to reach more students than a classroom allowed.
“The political landscape is not in favor of teachers,” Hyler said. “There was a lot put on my shoulders, and teachers today are just expected to take it and not really say anything.
“Teachers are exhausted right now.”
Hyler said when he was teaching, he taught the assigned curriculum, but today’s teachers are expected to be counselors and social workers and take on a parenting role.
“There’s not enough support in that, and it’s been enhanced during the pandemic,” he said, adding that teachers aren’t valued enough.
“You have other countries who place teachers with doctors and lawyers as far as pay. We’re not asking for anything we don’t deserve, and the pandemic has highlighted that,” he said.
According to a recent statewide survey of Michigan Education Association members by Emma White Research, public school educators’ job satisfaction dropped by 16% in six months.
It found that the percentage of educators who want to change careers had grown nine points since August, and a quarter of teachers with six to 10 years of experience plan to leave the profession.
Charles LeSure is an educator who left education and chose a new career path in Arizona to become a DJ and Uber driver and to start a record label.
After many positions as a math teacher, paraprofessional, dean of students, assistant principal and principal at Pace Academy in Southfield, he left the profession in 2020 after 13 years.
According to LeSure, as an administrator, he didn’t like the decisions that higher administrators were making. He said there was “dishonesty and lack of integrity.”
“I was against the administration telling teachers that they couldn’t get raises,” LeSure said.
According to LeSure, if it were up to him to set teacher salaries, they’d earn $50,000 a year minimum.
The president of the Michigan Education Association, Paula Herbart, said a collective voice is a part of the union’s core values, and the union tries to ensure that educators feel supported as professionals and as union members so they can make a living.
“We are investing in organizing education groups because there is nothing more important than having a professional agency and being able to be an equal partner at the table when we’re talking about salaries, benefits and curriculum,” she said.
Herbart said she comes from a family of educators, and it breaks her heart to think of one of them telling aspiring educators not to choose a teaching career.
“The struggle that we always have is that current educators who feel as desperate as the survey results show aren’t likely to recommend to many (college students) the job that they currently do. That is one of the most saddening things to me,” she said.