This Indianapolis teacher’s salary covered the basics. Then came everything her students needed

When Anita Saunders joined Teach For America and was hired by an Indianapolis charter school, she didn’t discuss compensation.

She was later in her career and already had decades of working experience — and she also had a mortgage, a car payment, and student loans.

When it came time to sign her contract, Saunders was surprised to see she was agreeing to a salary that was $23,000 less than what she had previously earned working at a nonprofit.

The salary stress ultimately drove her out of the classroom. Saunders now works as a school psychologist for Indianapolis Public Schools, in part because it’s a better-paying job in education. She recently shared her experience at a story slam event co-hosted by Chalkbeat and Teachers Lounge Indy at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

Here’s an excerpt of her story:

So I started my teaching career really anxious — anxious about all the policies and strategies and paperwork, etc., that goes along with teaching, along with how much money I was not making.

I’d done my budget, and I was going to just make it each month, barring any emergencies.

Of course emergencies happened. A pothole ate the front of my car — new tires. My basement flooded — new sump pump. Ninjas had a fight with fighting stars in my stomach that included a hospital stay and the subsequent bills.

And those were just the big things.

The little things came regularly, and most often were not related to my needs, but the needs of my students. Middle-school boys need a lot of stuff to get them to read at grade level. There were granola bars, Takis, Hot Cheetos. Lotion, because they stay ashy, but they don’t like to be ashy. Socks, shoes, rewards for reaching reading goals, classroom decor, coats, soccer cleats, treats for ISTEP, NWEA, and interims. Deodorant. Toothbrushes and toothpaste. Gatorade. Athletic fees. Febreze.

And the greatest expense known to teacher-kind: pencils.

Check out the rest of Saunders’ story in the video below.

You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.