MPIPersona Project
Dusan Todorovic/iStock

Sarah

Portrait of Sarah
Age
44
Race
White
Hometown
Utica, New York
Now lives
Charlotte, North Carolina
Job Title
Kindergarten Teacher
Income
$55,000
Education
MA (Education)
Group
Creative Local
Occupation
Education, Training & Library
Industry
Local Education &Training
Artifact: Storybook & Piggy Bank

Artifact: Storybook & Piggy Bank

Well, at first I was like, “Well, the American flag, of course.” You know, like that’s what every American I think should choose, because it shows patriotism and pride and everything. Then, I found this book in my classroom, Our Country. I was flipping through it and this is what caught my eye, this page right here: Just different people. That, to me, is what America is all about. It’s all about being a melting pot. Then I got to thinking even more. I think deep down that this [piggy bank] is America too. Unfortunately, it is all about money.

Disheartened teacher, struggling to make it all work
“It’s either the upper class gets the breaks or the lower-lower class gets the breaks. The people in the middle pay for everything and we don’t get any breaks.”
Boy in a classroom shannonpatrick17/EyeEm

Work

I teach Kindergarten. When I was a little girl, I just wanted to be a teacher. I thought correcting papers was the coolest thing ever and I was like, “I want to go to college, so I can be teacher and do that.” And I did. And correcting papers is by far the worst thing that you can do as a teacher! It’s terrible! Back in New York, teachers were held in high regard, and they made a pretty good living financially. Unfortunately in Charlotte, it’s the other way around. But I do it for the love of the kids and no teacher does it for the money.

“I’m up most nights thinking how I’m going to make ends meet. As a teacher I only get paid ten months in the year and I don’t have enough in savings to make it the whole summer.”

Community

Recently I sat down with my principal and asked for help. I couldn’t afford to send my son, Shawn, to the daycare he was at. I don’t qualify for assistance, so my only option was to try and get him into my school’s program. I had to swallow my pride but I have a great principal and this will be a blessing for us. I knew I could go to her with an issue that was very personal and she wasn’t going to tell the whole world about it. She cares about me as an employee and about my son too. Shawn will think it’s great to be so close to where mommy works.

Boy eating CREATISTA/iStock

Disheartened teacher, struggling to make it all work
“It’s either the upper class gets the breaks or the lower-lower class gets the breaks. The people in the middle pay for everything and we don’t get any breaks.”

Economy

The economy is a lot of stuff I don’t understand. Money really stresses me out, even more now that I’m separating from my husband. I dread the end of the school year. Crazy, right? Everyone else is so happy, looking forward to their summer vacations and summer camps. Not me. I’m up most nights thinking how I’m going to make ends meet. As a teacher I only get paid ten months in the year and I don’t have enough in savings to make it the whole summer. All I think about is how I’m going to pay the electric bill or my mortgage. I start to think of the extra shifts I have to take at the restaurant and that horrible feeling when a student of mine recognizes me. Shawn is four years old now, but soon he will start to understand that he can’t do some of the things his friends can. Yes, I should save throughout the year, but I live paycheck to paycheck. I just don’t get it. I have a master’s degree. I thought I did everything right. How did I get here? If I was a boy and could catch a football, I would be a millionaire. I get it, but I don’t.

“I just don’t get it. I have a master’s degree. I thought I did everything right. How did I get here?”

Race

I’m trying to raise my son to be the best person that he can. His dad is African American, so he is multicultural. He’s got a lot of nationalities in him, but I’m teaching him that everyone is special. Yes, we all look different, but we’re all people and we all have brains and we’re all smart. Color and race should not make a difference. I value hard work and I value family, providing for my family and making sure that there’s a roof over our head and food in our mouths. That’s what’s important to me. Not what kind of car I drive.

Woman sitting in a shopping mall. vm/iStock

Politics | Government

I thought government was here to help everyone. The state is in charge of my salary, which has been frozen for five years. I don’t know, I just feel the government is politicians doing what works for them; everyone is on the take. I’m stuck in this weird place — I can’t receive special services because I make too much money, but it’s not as though I could go to Tahiti if I wanted to. I don’t see myself as someone that really matters, to be honest with you. Every time I vote, the person doesn’t win. It’s like what I care about just doesn’t matter to anyone else. So when the government and politicians talk about changing things to help our country and our economy, it doesn’t really change for someone like me.

“I don’t see myself as someone that really matters, to be honest with you. Every time I vote, the person doesn’t win. It’s like what I care about just doesn’t matter to anyone else.”

America

I’m not going to say I live a stress-free life but I’m just proud to be an American. Every morning we say the Pledge of Allegiance. I put my hand on my heart and I’m proud to say it every day. We’re not the powerhouse we used to be. But we’re still a powerhouse. People still want to come to America.

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