Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teachers deserve the respect of a salary raise

Having been lucky enough to help choose the new Hernando County Teacher of the Year, I can offer this informed, thoughtful opinion about whether educators in this state and county deserve more money:

Of COURSE they flippin' do!

This year's winner — announced at a banquet Friday night — is Bethann Brooks, 48, who teaches nursing at Central High School and who impressed everyone on the selection committee as a great example of her profession — actually, as a great example of professionalism in general. Heck, of humanity in general.

Along with being a teacher, Brooks is the mother of five children and a nurse. Not a former nurse, but a teacher who spends some weekends and part of each summer at her old job, partly so she can bring students up-to-date, frontline information about their chosen career.

You'd think this would take her focus off teaching.

And you'd be wrong.

She switched from nursing to teaching seven years ago, she told us, because she thought it would give her more time to spend with her own kids. Instead, they ended up waiting for her after school while she helps out with a whole long list of extracurriculars.

She does this, she said, because it's fun, because she likes being involved with her school as much as possible and because she just plain loves teaching.

Teacher of the Year candidates would say that, of course, and sure enough just about all of them did.

So what? I believed them.

Not just because we on the committee could get a good feel for candidates' sincerity after spending six evenings over the past two weeks conducting interviews (which turned out to be as fun for me as helping out with the prom committee is for Brooks).

But also because, as countless psychological studies have shown, a strong sense of purpose is a major predictor of happiness.

And what could give a stronger sense of purpose than teaching? Nothing that I can think of, short of maybe brain surgery.

I know. Not every teacher is as skilled and committed as the ones we talked to. And without spending time in their classrooms, we couldn't even be absolutely sure they are as skilled and committed as they seemed.

I'm reasonably sure, though, that most of them are and that they mostly represent the quality of Hernando teachers as a whole.

I also think our investment in them is more than just an investment in schools, crucial as that is. As one candidate told us, teachers are teachers even when they aren't in class; a trip to Walmart can mean a half-dozen spontaneous parent-teacher conferences.

So, when we pay the salaries of our 1,477 classroom teachers, we're paying to build the community — which is, by the way, a community that suffers from chronic brain drain, a place of limited opportunity that many smart, young residents want to leave.

Teaching is one of the few jobs that keeps them here; about half of the Teacher of the Year contenders were home-grown.

So, if we're already retaining employees and providing them with rewarding careers, why pay them more?

Well, another recurring theme during these interviews was the lack of respect for their profession, which isn't surprising in a culture where respect is usually rewarded with cash.

And if teachers in Hernando are no longer near the very bottom of the pay scale in Florida, their average salary of $43,500 is still about $2,500 less than teachers statewide. And Florida teachers earn less than teachers in all but four states in the country.

So, put aside arguments about the finer points of and the motives behind Gov. Rick Scott's plan to give an across-the-board raise to teachers. Just ask whether they deserve more money.

Sure they do.

We can only give one teacher a Teacher of the Year award. But we can show them all a little bit more respect. With cash.

Teachers deserve the respect of a salary raise 01/26/13 [Last modified: Saturday, January 26, 2013 11:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump's lawyers seek to undercut Mueller's Russia investigation


    Some of President Donald Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president's authority to grant pardons, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar …

    President Donald Trump is said to be irritated by the notion that the special counsel's investigation could reach into his and his family's finances. [Associated Press]
  2. North Tampa shooting leaves one man dead


    Times staff

    TAMPA — A man was fatally shot Thursday afternoon after an argument with another man escalated, police said.

  3. St. Pete City Council tightens building rules in historic areas

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — There's a battle being waged over the soul of the city's historic neighborhoods.

    A new larger home sits next to a smaller one in the Kenwood neighborhood in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
  4. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  5. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.