Oklahoma teacher: “I’d be on food stamps” without a second job
Melissa Knight, who teaches art at Ardmore, Okla. middle school, holds a sign as teachers rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, April 2, to protest low school funding. | Sue Ogrocki / AP

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—From rodeo announcer to custom-cabinet builder, second jobs have become a necessity for many teachers in Oklahoma, where educators are some of the lowest paid in the nation.

Numerous schools are closed for a third day as teachers continue to rally at the Capitol. Demonstrators on Monday voiced their dissatisfaction with salaries, school funding, and other issues, while on Tuesday teachers occupied the House gallery.

Here are some who moonlight to make ends meet, sometimes working more than 40 hours extra per week:

Dora Blackman


Blackman, 45, teaches fifth grade at Healdton Public Schools in south-central Oklahoma.

Part-time jobs: Rodeo announcer and judge; waitress.

Hours worked outside teaching job: 46 per week.

“The reason I started doing the rodeo and announcing is so that I can pay for my daughter’s college education,” said Blackman, who took a $9,000 pay cut when she moved from Texas to Oklahoma in 2008. “I didn’t want her to have to go into debt.”

Rae Lovelace


Lovelace, 35, teaches third grade at Leedey Public Schools in northwest Oklahoma.

Part-time job: Teaches special education for an online charter school.

Hours worked outside teaching job: 30 to 40 per week.

“I have to work that second job because I’m a single mom with a teenage daughter,” Lovelace said. “If I didn’t have a second job, I’d be on food stamps.”

Dan Holcomb


Holcomb, 64, teaches science at Leedey Public Schools in northwest Oklahoma.

Part-time jobs: Lawn care and custom cabinetry.

Hours worked outside teaching job: At least 40 hours per week.

“Our youngest went into the oil field to be a welder, and he makes more than we do combined,” said Holcomb, whose wife also is a public school teacher. “And he doesn’t have a college degree.”

Meghann Neeley


Neeley, 40, is a second-grade teacher Newcastle Public Schools.

Part-time job: Online English instructor to children in China.

Hours worked outside teaching job: 20 hours a week.

“I shouldn’t have to do it, but it is necessary just to make ends meet,” Neeley said.

Shiann Johnson


Johnson, 33, teaches third grade at McAlester Public Schools in southeast Oklahoma.

Part-time job: Tutoring.

Hours worked outside teaching job: 5 to 6 hours per week.

Johnson, whose husband also is a public school teacher, said: “Between the two of us, we have five jobs, and we also have two young children, so the time we spend on those extra jobs takes away from them.”

Jenny Thompson


Thompson, 44, teaches middle school science at Pauls Valley Public Schools in south-central Oklahoma.

Part-time job: Youth pastor, substitute bus driver.

Hours worked outside teaching job: 15 hours per week.

“We are working off of a 2008 budget, and they continue to cut us every single year. Two years ago it was so bad that we were having to buy our own copy paper, or have parents donate it. And copy paper is just a bare necessity.”

Christi Sennett


Sennett, 49, teaches second grade at Indianola Public Schools in southeast Oklahoma.

Part-time job: Cleaning houses.

Hours worked outside teaching job: 10 to 12 hours per week.

“The second job is just to help with the extras,” said Sennett, who said her husband’s job in the oil field is cyclical depending on the price of oil. “I work as many hours as I can, because this helps with the extra things my family needs.”


LaDonna Crampton


Crampton, 55, teaches third grade at Edmond Public Schools, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

Part-time job: Child care worker.

Hours worked outside teaching job: 9 hours per week.

“I took the extra job to help pay for our children’s tuition and extra-curricular activities,” Crampton said. “Our goal is to get our kids through college debt free, and we’re almost there.”

All photographs in this story are from the Associated Press.


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