Seattle teacher Michael Cortez spoke to The Collegian about his feelings as an underprivileged elementary school teacher.
When school began on September 5, teachers in Seattle, Washington, were expecting a 10.5 – 25 percent pay increase. After four weeks of striking and threats for a delay in the start of the school year, members of the Seattle Education Association had compromised a new education contract to include at least a 10.5 percent raise in teachers salaries for over 6,000 schools.
In the previous 2015 – 18 contract, the average Seattle educator would make between $50,604 to $100,763 and in the new contract will now be making $55,984 – $111,343.
Michael Cortez, an elementary level music teacher at Mcgilvra and Stevens elementary school, describes being a current educator in Seattle as a stressful background with a rewarding future, stating, “I wanted to be an influential person in a student’s life and I felt that education was a great way of becoming that type of person.”
According to Cortez, his high school choir director influenced him to become an educator, who he said was caring, would always make the students laugh and would always lend an open ear to the students.
Becoming an educator requires multiple tests for certification, a large number of field experience hour and several courses on learning the basic structures of general education. When finally stepping foot into the classroom, Cortez shared how difficult it can be to deal with large class sizes and accompanying students with different learning abilities while having few or outdated resources.
On a normal school day, the average class size at both elementary schools can range from about 20 to 30 students. This has led to buying school supplies to support the students with money out of pocket. Cortez also shared how from personal experience, teachers are one of the only professions that take their work home with them with papers to grade, lessons to plan and practicing instructions.
“It makes me feel like I have a better chance of living affordably in the city,” he said. Although this is Cortez’s first year living in Seattle, he feels that it was important for him to go out and strike in honor of his fellow colleagues who have been in the workforce for many years.
Last, Cortez shared to all people who are interested in becoming educators to “be adaptive,” adding, “Becoming an educator is not simple — you will learn to read body language and change things on the fly. It is okay to fail and it is all a learning experience.”
On Saturday, September 8, 2018, the Seattle Education Association and Seattle Public Schools District officially discussed and voted on the approval of the new teacher’s salary contract. All schools have started classes on the normal school year schedule, and the new payment contract took into effect at the beginning of the 2018 – 19 school year.