My Economy

For this schoolteacher, the pandemic was a turning point

Maria Hollenhorst Jul 27, 2021
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After quitting her teaching job, Abby Norman discovered she could make more money working fewer hours as a bartender. Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
My Economy

For this schoolteacher, the pandemic was a turning point

Maria Hollenhorst Jul 27, 2021
Heard on:
After quitting her teaching job, Abby Norman discovered she could make more money working fewer hours as a bartender. Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
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My Economy” tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.

The pandemic was a turning point for former school teacher Abby Norman, who now works as a bartender in Atlanta, Georgia.
The pandemic was a turning point for former teacher Abby Norman, who now works as a bartender in Atlanta. (Photo courtesy Abby Norman)

Amid the stress of remote schooling and teaching during the pandemic, many U.S. schoolteachers are leaving their profession. 

High school English and public speaking teacher Abby Norman is one of them. 

“My last year of teaching, I was teaching at a charter school that was designed to be online,” she said. “In the fall, things in Georgia were pretty scary and nobody really knew what we would be doing for the rest of the year, so some parents elected to take their kids and put them in the online charter school, which meant that my class sizes exploded. … I couldn’t do it anymore.”

A recent survey from the nonprofit Rand Corp. found that 1 of every 4 teachers was likely to leave her or his job at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, compared with 1 in 6 before the pandemic. 

“Financially, quitting in the middle of the year with nothing to fall back on was not an option for me,” Norman said. “I needed the health insurance, and I needed the pay.” 

At the end of the school year, Norman, who has a master’s degree in divinity and works part time at a church, began interviewing for pastoral positions. 

“Some of the interview processes just took too long, or there were too many good candidates,” she said. “And so when it got to July, I needed a job and I needed a job now.”

That’s when she came to the Abby Singer, a gastropub in Atlanta, to apply for a bartending job.  

“I walked into the Abby Singer and said, ‘I haven’t done this in a decade, but I promise I can do it,’ and they said, ‘Well, we need a bartender and you have the right name, so let’s go.’”

Norman said she currently makes more money working 20 hours a week at the Abby Singer than she did working full time as a teacher. “And I love it,” she said. “I laugh every day at work, and then at the end of the day, I clock out … and I’m off.”

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