Young teacher feels inspired through walkout

Victor Pozadas

Sarah Massey displays her sign between thousands of teachers, advocates and supporters at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (PHOTO: Victor A. Pozadas)

Sarah Massey understands the importance of her role amongst her peers from Eugene Field Elementary in Oklahoma City, even though she has only been teaching for two months.

Massey said she decided to stay in Oklahoma after being hired at Eugene Field Elementary.

“I think being a new and young teacher, you come in with a lot of hopes and expectations,” she said. “The moment you walk through that door, they’re all crushed.”

Sarah Massey stands in her classroom with the sign she will be displaying at the walkout April 2, 2018, in Oklahoma City. (PHOTO: Victor A. Pozadas)

Her intentions were to leave the state once she finished studying due to the pressure from friends and family to find financial stability.

“I feel like a lot of responses were in opposition,” Massey said. “‘You shouldn’t be a teacher’ or ‘oh, that sounds like a nice job, but what are your other financial plans.’”

The annual mean wage of elementary school teachers in the state stands at $40,530, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national average for K-12 teachers is estimated to be close to $58,000.

[From left to right] Kelli Farris, Sarah Massey and Kimberly Harper, from Eugene Field Elementary, talk plans before heading to the Oklahoma State Capitol for the teacher walkout April 2, 2018. (PHOTO: Victor A. Pozadas)
Tens of thousands of teachers and supporters gathered Monday at the Oklahoma State Capitol to advocate and talk with legislators to set an improved bill that puts more money into the public school system.

Massey joined her peers at the Capitol with signs of protest showing their frustration, pointing out their problems in their classrooms and issues with how state government has handled the movement so far.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed and approved HB1010XX last week in an attempt to find compromise with the public school system. Even though this bill gives an average increase in salary for teachers, the teacher’s sentiments and conversations still point to the little change it could make in the long term.

Massey’s first couple of weeks at Eugene Field consisted of dealing with a malfunctioning SMART board and projector. She used her personal computer to teach her class of almost 20 students.

“All the electronics wouldn’t work, so I had my class huddling the screen of my computer looking at PowerPoints or watching videos,” she said.

Paige Bressman, Eugene Field Elementary principal, said the school has had to constantly fundraise throughout the academic year to provide the resources and materials they need to keep their classrooms well equipped.

“There has not been a time this year that we have stopped fundraising,” Bressman said. “The teachers are very tired of it. They don’t want to deal with money, they want to be in their classrooms teaching the kids. In order to do what we want to do it requires money.”

The recent teacher protests in West Virginia served as a catalyst for the movement here in Oklahoma, according to Massey.

“If they wouldn’t have done the same thing, we probably wouldn’t have either,” Massey said. “I think it’s really encouraging, but I am a little nervous. Today is an easy day, it’s going to be tomorrow and the day after and sticking to the plan until we get what we deserve.”