It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week but many teachers are saying it isn’t a time for celebration, it’s a time for protest. In Arizona, about 75,000 teachers statewide have organized a walk-out to march against low wages and insufficient school funds. The largest educational march in U.S history.

With average salaries less than $48,000, teacher wages are barely enough to make ends meet, let alone pay off student loan debt. Adrienne Henderson, a third-grade elementary school teacher and a client of My Education Solutions, works at Tolleson Elementary School District and has joined the fight for decent living wages.

We asked her how student load debt affects the quality of life for Arizona teachers and how her colleagues deal with it today.

“A lot of teachers out here can’t afford to pay loans, so we get second jobs or third jobs. We tutor after school, waitress, or work at Starbucks” she said.

Adrienne graduated with her Master’s in Education from Bowie State University in Maryland. When she moved to Arizona, her wages were less than half of what she was making back home. A student loan payment was the last of her worries. The average teacher salary in Arizona was announced at $48,000, but Adrienne knew teachers making as low as $32,000. Even a Master’s Degree didn’t guarantee the compensation it deserved.

“Teacher’s salaries in Arizona are not that great, so it was a big burden on my family to pay my student loan each month” she said.

Always striving for the golden standard, Adrienne knew her experience didn’t merit the short end of the stick. In 2013, she had gone after her Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership at Grand Canyon University, Arizona. She knew she had to keep up with the rapidly changing educational system.

Moments away from graduating, Adrienne put her EdD on the back burner to pay for her son’s tuition at a private high school. She couldn’t afford two tuitions, but as soon as she stopped attending school her student loan amount became active for repayment.

“I got my first bill of $350. It freaked me out. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain that”, she said.

Fortunately, a friend of Adrienne’s had referred her to My Education Solutions after enrolling in the program herself.

“It really does work. She had more Student Loan Debt then I do, so I applied. It didn’t take me any time. It was a very streamlined process and the representatives were friendly” she said.

Arizona teachers are asking for a 20% increase in salary, they’re not asking for the moon. Education in Arizona has a long way to go, but at least Adrienne can look forward to a new phase in her life.

“I already wrote my dissertation, I just need to take the final classes for my PhD. With my loans at a good payment amount I can afford, I’ll be able to finish school.”

Adrienne will soon move on to a teaching job with an employer that offers college tuition aid. With opportunity on the horizon, Adrienne’s passion for education can begin to get the support it truly deserves.

By: Genesis Moreno