As a high school teacher, I am an “essential” worker. Unlike health care or retail workers, my work doesn’t increase my risk of COVID-19 infection. Instead, I’ve sacrificed my health working from home with no ergonomic support, logging hours online daily, connecting with my students to support their learning during a crisis. This entailed a hugely increased workload (which normally required extensive time outside the school day) and much loss of joy in my job. (Yes, I know I’m fortunate to have a job.)

I echo something I heard a nurse say: Thanks for the applause and Facebook shout-outs for how awesome essential workers are; now pay me what I’m worth. I don’t need people banging on pots and pans; I need a solid contract that supports me and is not regressive.

Many colleagues are teaching while simultaneously being their own children’s teachers. We are entirely overloaded. It’s easy to rah-rah teachers and nurses. It’s harder as a society to actually pay us what we are worth. All essential workers deserve to be well compensated.

When voting on your town’s school budget, please consider these words. If you serve on a school board that is offering a proposed teacher contract with a 0 percent increase, please consider these words. My property taxes went up by 9 percent last year, so a 0 percent increase is really a pay cut. My colleagues and I have earned a contract recognizing our extraordinary efforts.

Joanna Leary


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