By Jonathan Lowe, TV5 Anchor, Reporter - bio | email
SAGINAW COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -
Annie Buxton recently reached a milestone in her life. She just graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with a degree in education.
We met her while she was substitute teaching at Freeland Elementary School. It's a part-time gig while she waits for a call back on a full-time position as a physical education teacher.
When we asked her how her job search is going, she said, "It's a little bit frustrating."
Buxton blames the hold up on legislative wrangling in Lansing. School administrators are holding off on hiring until changes in Lansing settle down a bit. 2011 was a year of funding cutbacks to public education.
But Buxton says none of that discouraged her from pursuing a teaching career. "They say that you don't go into teaching to make money, and I'm not doing that."
But what about current teachers? What do they think about their chosen profession these days?
That tough question is why, over the last six weeks, TV5 has been conducting a teacher satisfaction survey. We sent 12 questions to 200 Mid-Michigan educators, asking such questions as, "Are you paying more for your pension, health and other insurance benefits?"
One teacher said, "Health insurance and retirement: If they would stop outsourcing jobs, we would have more in our retirement account."
We broke our survey down into three geographical areas: teachers from the "Flint and Saginaw" school districts, "Bay City-Midland-Suburbs," and "Rural" areas such as Bad Axe and Hemlock.
One of the first questions we asked was, "How would you rate your experience as a teacher this school year?"
When we looked at the results, 42 percent responded by saying "Had it's ups and downs."
We talked to Jennifer Suarez, a fifth-grade teacher from the Midland School District. We posed a few questions to her, as well as a few others. She gave us some candid responses that helped us understand the results.
"Morale is low," Suarez said.
She says, "There's so many mandates coming down, so many laws being introduced, so many things that seem to be against teachers."
Our survey found something similar.
When we asked, "Do you think politicians in Lansing understand your job," one teacher said, "They are only interested in discrediting the teacher's union and reducing the amount of money spent on their (teachers') salaries."
Teachers' pay alone has become a hot-button issue over the last year. Legislators have been floating ideas of paying teachers based on their student's performance. It's why we asked this question, "Do you think teachers should be graded and the grades used to determine raises?"
One teacher who responded doesn't like the idea, saying, "Each group of students is completely different... as are the dynamics of each classroom."
Suarez, who's been teaching since 1999, agrees with some of that sentiment.
"Personally I don't have a problem with pay for performance. I think if you're doing your job, you're not going to worry."
But despite all that has changed - and is changing - in public education, one thing remains constant for both Suarez and Buxton - the kids they teach.
"I know if I have the right personality with it and I get into the schools, I put my foot in the door, it will happen eventually for me," Buxton added.
Copyright WNEM 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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