Our Film Series

Our new film, produced for the Maine Education Association, follows Nate Petersen, a high school Social Studies teacher in Hermon, Maine. Nate is a full time teacher, but his teacher salary alone is not enough to make ends meet. He works some afternoons and weekends as a bartender to supplement his income.

As Nate tells us in the film, teaching is much more than just hours spent teaching in the classroom. To create lesson plans that are inspiring and engaging for students, teachers like Nate spend many hours outside the school day putting together these plans. 

Stories like Nate's are extremely common across Maine, where average salary, at just $33,189, is about $7,000 below the average for New England. That makes Maine's starting teacher salary the lowest in New England and 41st in the nation.

Nate is 30 years old and soon wants to start a family, but knows that between his two jobs, and struggling to pay back student loans, that is just not a possibility. We will continue to work towards a society where teachers like Nate can afford to start a family while staying in the profession they love.  

This film profiles Laney, a public middle school teacher who works two after-school jobs and spends her nights bartending just so she can afford to stay in the classroom. Laney fears she won’t make enough to pay her bills—and fears even more that she can’t give 100 percent to her students because she is so over-worked and exhausted.

Laney’s story is not uncommon. According to a recent study by Center for American Progress, teachers in the United States have the lowest starting salary among comparable professionals. Another study by McKinsey notes teachers’ salaries have essentially stagnated for 40 years.

In its current state, the teaching profession is failing to attract, retain and value qualified teachers to do this critical work.

The Teacher Salary Project plans to move forward with more films and initiatives to amplify and support teachers voices.

Meet Kory O’Rourke: a San Francisco resident, mom, Lyft driver, and a full time teacher. Kory started driving Lyft last year as a way to provide for her children. The salary she's making as a teacher is not enough to get by and not enough for a professional. 

Despite the hurdles in front of them, dedicated teachers do heroic work to bring a love of learning to their students. We are in awe of Kory, and all teachers like her, and we continue to be mad as hell that good teachers need second jobs. 

And these issues are not just in San Francisco. Teachers all over the country take on second jobs—driving for Lyft, bartending, housekeeping, working in a warehouse overnight—just to make enough money to stay in the classroom. No wonder we're seeing teacher shortages.

We hope Kory reminds you of the teachers who made you who you are today and we hope you join us in our indignation. 

Kory's film is kicking off our short film series about America's teachers and their importance to our shared peace and prosperity. We're debuting it today, her first day back at school. Please take a moment to watch Kory's film and share her story with your community.

The film was also shared by Upworthy, where it's received over 174,000 views.



There are more films on the way. Subscribe to our Youtube Channel to catch the latest updates!