“What Shall I Do?”: Paid Employment for Mormon Girls, 1927
Agnes Lovendahl Stewart
The introduction to this series is posted here.
II. – The Teacher
Before all educational requirements for the teacher, I would place, as of first importance to her success, a deep and wonderful love of boys and girls, and that splendid unselfishness and willingness to serve humanity which is the essence of greatness.
I place these first, because the teacher’s work is one of love, whose reward comes not in worldly things, but in things of the spirit – the joy of accomplishment and of great service, and the gratitude of boys and girls as they grow older and learn to appreciate her work for them.
In the state of Utah, teachers in the elementary grades are required to have completed a high school course and in addition either two years normal course, or 90 hours of college work before they receive a certificate to teach. This certificate is good for five years. If they teach for this period of time, with two years of the five spent in teaching in Utah, they may receive a life certificate in this state.
Teachers in the high schools of the state are required to have a degree – either B.S. (Bachelor of Science) or A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) from a standard university or college before they begin to teach. It is also essential that they have some experience before obtaining a position in the city junior and senior high schools, although sometimes, in cases of very exceptional ability, the requirement of previous experience is not enforced.
The teaching profession offers an excellent opportunity for those who can meet the educational requirements, because it is a profession in which the “labor-turnover” is great. By that we mean that teachers are constantly leaving the profession to get married, to enter some line of business, to study further or for other reasons, and every spring there are plenty of vacancies to take care of the big annual crop of normal graduates. It is a profession in which a beginner with the right training can easily obtain a position if she is competent.
The beginning salary for the teacher in the elementary grades in Salt Lake City is $950 a year and it is increased at the rate of $100 each year that one serves. The maximum paid an elementary teacher in Salt Lake City at the present time is $1800. Grade school principals receive from $2000 to $3200.
The minimum for the teachers in junior and senior high schools is $1100 and the maximum $2150. The salary of high school principals ranges from $3000 to $4000.
The beginning salary for elementary teachers in the country districts varies, but it ranges from about $900 upward. The salaries in the country are always a little lower than in the city schools.
One of the advantages of the schoolteachers’ profession is the provision which is made through the teachers’ associations for pensions to take care of one in old age, and for sickness funds to help defray the expenses when one must be out of school on account of illness.
In Salt Lake City, a teacher may obtain a pension after she has taught for 30 years, 15 years of which must have been spent in the schools of Salt Lake City. She must be at least 60 years of age. Her pension provides her with $50 a month for the rest of her life.
Salaries for school teachers are not as high as they should be when one considers the amount of training which the profession requires. The person who teaches must be willing to sacrifice financial reward for the joy of unselfish service, and real love of the work. That is why real teachers are born, not made. But a teacher’s influence for good can be far reaching – greater than anyone can know. It is a profession of nobility and dignity.
One of the difficulties which the country school teacher meets, is the difficulty which she finds in obtaining a congenial place to board.
Poor soul! Nobody wants her! Everybody thinks her a necessary nuisance! If folks take boarders, they want only men. They are afraid a girl will want to wash or press something and get in their way.
She will find herself the center of interest in the community, if it is small. Everyone will know how many letters she gets and from whom, whether she powders her nose and how old she is. If she walks one block with a young man of the town the tongues have her married to him. She lives like a goldfish in a glass bowl.
A school teacher must have mountains of patience, not only with her pupils, but with their parents as well. It is a nerve racking job to keep 40 or 50 youngsters, full of life and pep, and make them keep reasonably still and learn something. And it is sometimes difficult to make parents realize that perhaps it is not partiality on the part of the teacher which makes their children’s report cards come home marked in red.
The teacher’s job is a hard one, because the gong at 3:30 doesn’t end her day. She has papers to correct, and work to plan, and reports to fill out, and a hundred and one other things to do. The conscientious teacher could work twenty-four hours of every day and still feel that many things more could be done to make her work more efficient.
But there are wonderful advantages too. The long summer vacation gives opportunity for more study, or for travel. One always has the opportunity open for advancement and self-development, and better positions lie ahead.
The association is very pleasant. You will find joy in knowing the other teachers, splendid, well-educated men and women who are interested in the same things you like. Nowhere will you find fellow-workers more likable, cultured and worth knowing.
You will like the students, too. There’s a wonderful thrill in knowing and sharing the joys and hopes of youth, and in lending a hand over the difficult places. The teacher does perhaps more than any other to determine what the fate of the nation tomorrow shall be, for in her care is entrusted the training of tomorrow’s citizens and leaders.
And, after all, what reward could be greater, in the years when gray hairs have turned white, than to hear your name spoken reverently by someone who says, “She was the one who gave me my start – my first inspiration. She was my teacher, you know.”