- One of the best perks about being a teacher, besides the almost four months off a year, and being on the same schedule as my children, is that everyone thinks we are really poor. I use this to my advantage all the time. I said to my car mechanic, “That’s really expensive, I’m just a poor teacher. Do you have a teacher discount?” I cringed a little, and sure enough he took 15% off. I use it make my points financially when I say things like, “If I can save up an emergency fund in a few months, on a poor teacher salary, then you should do it in no time.” But, today I plan on letting you in on a secret of teacher salaries. We are paid very well, if you can work the system. I don’t have access to every school district in the USA, but I have worked in three different systems over my dozen years of teaching in the Dallas area, and each district was different in how they paid us, and I used every trick I could to boost my salary to where I wanted it. So here are the earning options for educators.
Most school districts have a base pay or a starting pay. I have seen it as low as $35,000 and as high as $80,000 around the Dallas area. So, early on I always wanted to get as close to $50,000 for my base pay. The lowest base I ever had was $47,000 and the highest is $56,000. This base pay also goes up for years of experience, so it should go up by 1-2% every year no matter what in most school districts. This allows those 40+ year teachers to be making closer to $70,000+ a year for their base pay. Every district has a different system, so I suggest shopping around and seeing which system works best for you. I only apply at districts where they pay the better base rates. I got a better job offer once and the base pay was $42,000, and I turned it down, because I would have more responsibility and less pay. I am always looking for an overall better opportunity, but it must pay better too.
Stipends are a big deal for coaches and most teachers don’t realize there are stipends for all teachers if you look around and ask for them. If the base is low I would always make sure the stipend is high. I worked at a school district where the base was lower, and negotiated a higher stipend of $6,000 for coaching two sports. I have coached up to three sports for a $7,200 stipend. There are also stipends for department heads, choir directors, band directors, art teachers, Spanish speakers, special education, math and science teachers, and any subject where there is a shortage of teachers. I heard of a German teacher getting $5,000 extra for their stipend because they asked.
Most of the time this is the part that you can negotiate with the principal or athletic director to get your pay up. You can negotiate incentive pay, sports or activities coached, expectations, and you can get an extended contract to give yourself more job security if you just ask. I personally love my one year contracts that I can negotiate yearly. I had a job offer from another district once and used it as leverage to get my stipend maxed out, and I got my base pay raised from a 187 day contract to a 202 day contract without having to work those extra days. I was making the same amount of money working as an assistant coach as my head coach was making because he never asked. Learn the art of negotiating and how your pay system works, because it will help your overall salary.
All the Extras
This is the area that most teachers don’t take advantage of. I would say that half of the teachers I have worked with are in the occupation because they thought is would be fun to not work a lot (Suckers, we are always working). They are the ones you hear complaining about being underpaid and under appreciated. They can be over paid if they would just get off their butt and do all the extras that come their way. The rest of us just love making a difference in people’s life, and feel a calling to teaching. The other complainy group usually quits the occupation a few years in.
Some examples of extras are if you get a master’s degree online in 18 months for $7,200 (after local scholarships and grants) from Lamar University you get $3,000 more every year for the rest of your career. Some districts will pay for your master’s degree too. If you work summer school you can make an extra $3,000-$4,000 extra for a month of work in June, and still have July and most of August off. If you work the four hour detention after school once a week, you get $100 every week working for 32 weeks or $3,200 more a year. If you get a bus driver’s license paid for by the school district, for free, then you will be paid $50-$150 to drive your own sports team to your games or get paid to go on field trips. I get an extra $1,000 a year driving to games I have to be at anyways. I’m also one of four coaches, out of about 50 on campus, who take advantage of this. If I work security at the football games I get $125 to basically watch the football games on Friday nights. If I administer the SAT or ACT (watch them take a test) on Saturday a few times a year I get $200. If I count pitches at the baseball games, I get $75 to watch baseball. If I work the concession stand at any game or take tickets, I get $50 and can leave before the game ends. If I am a game manger for basketball or volleyball games, I get $75 to watch the game. If I work academic decathlon meets a few Saturdays a year, I can get $200 each time. If I monitor a computer lab after school, I get $20 an hour to surf the internet and make sure kids are not messing around. The list can go on, and is different for every school district, but I think you get the point on all the extra money making opportunities that are available to teachers.
There are also teacher’s who speak at conferences, work sports camps ($1,000 for four days), grade AP essays (free airfare, hotel, and paid too), self publish lesson plans, chaperone groups to competitions for free trips to New York, DisneyWorld, and our robotics team went to Hawaii one year. You also get free meals working events, free clothing (mainly shirts), free gift cards (especially elementary teachers), and you get the perks of the all mighty teacher discounts around town (if you ask). I also get, at my current district, my health insurance paid for in full and I get $15,000 life insurance policy free. I also get free membership to coaches organizations where I get free college sports tickets from University’s in Texas. I saw TCU vs. Texas last year and SMU vs. Navy for free.
Numbers Breakdown (How much can a teacher make?)
Below is an example of a first year teacher I work with, who is a single coach, and is saving 75% of his salary from a middle school job, and still lives at home with his parents and is driving his first car from high school. (This is where I messed up!)
$50,000 Base Pay
$3,000 Master’s Degree (paid for from scholarships in 18 months)
$6,000 Stipend (Coaching two sports)
$3,000 Summer School (June only)
$3,000 After School Detention Monitor (3 hours a week)
$1,000 Bus Driving to your Activities
$4,000 Watching Baseball, Football, Volleyball, Basketball Games
$600 Academic Decathlon, SAT, and ACT ( 6 Saturdays a year)
$500 in Free Clothing, Gift Cards, Discounts, Food, etc. (estimated most likely low)
This means you would make $71,100 total for being a teacher/ coach each school year plus all the perks!!. The national average salary for a teacher is $48,012 a year. The national average for a regular working household is $50,756. The problem I see with most teachers is no one wants to work. I sign up for lots of extras. If I want to watch the baseball team in the playoffs, then I find a way to work the game and get paid to watch. Instead of just going to the football games, I sit in a chair at the top of the bleachers and get paid while eating my free dinner they provide (Chick-Fil-A or Pizza). Instead of just going to my basketball games, that I coach for a stipend, I drive myself there and get paid to coach and drive. I also, get free coaching clothing, shoes, and free food at most events I work. I also try to keep my working days down to under 200 a year so I can have the other 165 days off (bonus perk!!).
So, I don’t do all the things listed above, but most of the above I have tried and either liked and stuck with it (watching live sports), or hated it and won’t do it again (SAT and ACT). Teachers can decide their yearly pay, if they look for opportunities and go get them. I have found that most of what I do extra has happened because no one would volunteer to take the money. As of this week, I got an email while I was working a sports camp ($750 extra) to substitute summer school for $35 an hour. I was already working and had to turn it down, but it was going to be for three days at six hours a day. I have made myself the guy on campus to ask, and that in itself has made me an extra $5,000 a year in opportunities. You can’t claim you have no time, because I have three kids, and we all find time go to the games together and watch for free and I get paid. Everyone is happy!!
Teaching is a great job, with high pay (if you choose), and did I mention that the $71,100 can be made right out of college for a first year teacher! Your base pay will increase every year you work (I know a coach with a $72,000 base pay after 26 years), and then you can add on whatever you want. What other job offers this right out of college!! So, the next time you hear of the poor teachers complaining, just know that those are the half that got into teaching and chose to be poor.
That’s our little secret, how some of us teachers are rich and why some are poor. If you have a youngster looking into their future you might give them the heads up that a frugal lifestyle and teacher pay can make you millions. There is also the option of two teachers combining incomes for saving $80,000-$100,000 a year if you do it right. Check out Ed at The Millionaire Educator if you don’t believe me.