Every new school year, uncertainty for teachers

A language arts teacher in Minnesota describes the anxiety that comes with every new school year -- wondering if she will have a job.

Lynnea West teaches English language arts in Eden Prairie, Minn. She's been laid off and rehired two years in a row.

Kai Ryssdal: More people work as teachers in this country than work in any other profession. But the ranks are thinning. More than 300,000 education jobs have disappeared since the recession officially ended. That's according to the White House.

And for a lot of teachers that spring time pink slip has become something of annual cliffhanger. Lynnea West teaches language arts at a Spanish immersion school in Eden Prairie, Minn.


Lynnea West: This spring was my second time being laid off. Our district had to lay off 25 tenured teachers and I was told, "You basically have no chance of coming back to our school district in the fall."

I was really devastated for a couple of weeks. I just kind of wandered around in a fog, like "How am I going to have a career without teaching?" I didn't really know what that would look like. And then, it kind of opened up the door for me, really, to start looking around.

I just started sending my new revamped resume around to people and signing up for conferences, and networking.

So the last week of school, my principal said, "There's been a position allotted to us, and we are going to hire you back." I was grateful, and then I thought, "Well all that drama just to be called back into the same position."

But I am going to go back for this at least one more year I have. And then it looks like next spring, there will be more budget cuts on horizon. Of course, it's not a guarantee that I'm going to be laid off again next spring, but it's looking pretty good.

I've got a little notebook I'm keeping all my new adventure options in and I've got a different page for all my brainstorming activities. I had a page of, "Here's going to be my new tutoring business, here's going to be my Ph.D program, then here is my other options, like "Oh, what if I worked for Apple and I trained teachers on how to use iPads?" I could do that.


Ryssdal: Marketplace's Amy Scott produced that profile. We'll be hearing from more teachers in the coming weeks in a series we're calling Plan B.

About the author

Lynnea West teaches language arts at a Spanish immersion school in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Lynnea West teaches English language arts in Eden Prairie, Minn. She's been laid off and rehired two years in a row.

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