Connecticut teachers give so much of their time and their energy to their students, but hundreds of local educators told NBC Connecticut Investigates that they are giving a lot of their own money, too. Some are even working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
The 2019 NBC Connecticut Investigates Teacher Survey on classroom expenditures asked local teachers about their typical spending on classroom supplies, and also focused in on teacher pay and the steps some educators take to stay afloat financially.
During the last few days of summer break before students arrived and before the new school year got underway, Mary Kay Rendock, who teaches at Carmen Arace Intermediate School in Bloomfield was quite busy.
"On those days, I had to be hyper organized," said Rendock, who is a fifth grade math teacher. But, like many Connecticut teachers, she has other jobs as well.
From early April through late August, Rendock can be found working as a “Goat Herder” at Dunkin' Donuts Park in Hartford. She said she loves interacting with and assisting Yard Goats fans and often runs into current and former students. Rendock said helping fans navigate the stadium does not pay much, but that it does help her make ends meet.
She said all the money she makes at the ballpark, and as a softball coach, and as a justice of the peace is saved to cushion the financial blow of April 15 - tax day.
"Now it's a necessity. Now it is. It wasn't when I first started," said Rendock.
According to the hundreds of teachers who completed the NBC Connecticut Investigates survey, 47 percent said they had a job - or jobs - in addition to teaching. Among those with a side job, 87 percent said they needed that extra income.
"They're tutoring. They're doing summer school," said Susan Fabrizio, a fifth grade teacher at Louis Toffolon Elementary School in Plainville. "She sells cosmetics. Another person I know sells Tupperware or Pampered Chef," she said of fellow teachers she knows.
Survey results showed teachers are working in child care, retail and restaurants. They are also yoga, music or dance instructors, pet sitters, pet groomers, landscapers, writers, realtors, booksellers, bookkeepers, housekeepers, Airbnb hosts and interior designers. Most of the educators who responded to the survey say the extra work is to supplement their teaching salary - especially for those just starting in the teaching profession.
"As you move up in the pay scale, you can hopefully then not have to be working a second job," said Maureen Hilsdon, who teaches first, second and third grade at Montessori Magnet at Batchelder in Hartford.
The National Education Association found, on average, the starting Connecticut teacher salary was $45,922, which is the sixth highest in the country. But officials with the Connecticut Education Association, which helped distribute the survey along with AFT Connecticut, said there is room for improvement.
"If we don't approach this task of compensation for teachers and funding for schools, we're going to have a teacher gap in another few years," said Jeff Leake, President of the CEA.
Rendock, meanwhile, said she thrives with her busy schedule and was excited about the start of this school year. "If people are really choosing to this job and they really are dedicated and passionate about what they're doing, nothing matters," she said. "You're going to get the job done."
Learn more about how much of their own money teachers are spending on their classrooms in our story The Cost of Teaching Part 1: Teacher Spending and Supplies.