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Posted on Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Washtenaw County teacher still jobless after 7-year quest in midst of education funding crisis

By Danielle Arndt


Saline resident Lisa St. John poses Tuesday afternoon in downtown Ann Arbor. St. John has been looking for a permanent teaching position in Washtenaw County since 2005.

Jeffrey Smith |

Saline resident Lisa St. John has been searching for a permanent teaching position in Washtenaw County since 2005.

Despite submitting dozens of applications, her substitute teaching experience and going back to obtain her master’s degree, St. John has received very few interviews throughout her seven-year job hunt.

She did work for a year teaching at a charter school in Detroit and she picks up substitute teaching jobs whenever she can, but St. John's search for a full-time teaching job in Washtenaw County has been futile.

“I've never had a problem before in my life getting any type of job,” she said.

St. John's passion for children may not be enough to offset her age and pricey qualifications.

St. John, now 40, graduated with psychology degree from Wayne State University in 1995. About seven years later, after working for a non-profit organization in Port Huron, she got the bug to teach.

Through the nonprofit, St. John was assigned to meet twice per week with a group of incarcerated teenage girls at the juvenile detention center. She spent a significant amount of time speaking with the girls about the challenges they faced and why they were there.

One day, as part of a sharing activity, St. John asked the teens to write about a time they had to make a difficult decision and whether they picked the right choice or the wrong choice and why. St. John said a 16-year-old girl called her over and asked if she could draw a picture instead because she wasn’t comfortable writing.

St. John said at that point, she knew in her heart that in order to really make a difference in the lives of underserved and struggling children, she had to become a teacher.

So she got a teaching certificate in 2005 from Saginaw Valley State University.

“I was applying and not receiving many interviews,” St. John said. “And what interviews I had weren’t resulting in any opportunities — maybe one or two, but I never got calls back.”

Call it a case of poor timing. St. John entered the teaching field just as Michigan’s K-12 education funding crisis was beginning.

She decided to return to school to get her master’s degree in education and an endorsement in learning disabilities.

“I thought this would open a door for me and I could get into the schools … but I found that I was still really quite frustrated,” said St. John.

She received her first full-time teaching position in 2008 at a charter school in Detroit. While she was grateful and finished out her year-long contract, she found that particular charter school environment wasn’t for her. She also got married and wanted to hunt for something closer to home.

Three year's later, St. John’s search continues.

“What is expected of teachers today going into the field, you have to be at the top level of your game with everything,” she said of her observations while looking for a job. “Administrators have the pick of the litter.”

When St. John was hired at the Detroit charter school, she went through three interviews and was selected from a pool of 42 applicants.

St. John added she is finding there are many summer teaching positions open for local summer school programs because the permanent, full-time teachers want their summers off.

Budget cuts may make it especially difficult for older teachers with credentials beyond a bachelor’s degree, like St. John, to find work. Teachers with a master’s degree cost more to employ, as districts are required to pay them a higher base salary.

So even those districts that may end up hiring, might look to take on young college graduates because they are cheaper.

Members of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education expressed at last week’s meeting they may want to replace some, if not all, of the district's 32 staff members who are retiring or resigning at the end of the year.

Not replacing them was expected to save AAPS $3.2 million, but Trustee Glenn Nelson and a few others were adamant about keeping class sizes stable and not increasing them further.

Nelson proposed replacing the 32 staff members with all new hires for a savings of about $960,000. He said to hire a new teacher costs the district about $70,000 per teacher, whereas to hire an experienced teacher costs about $100,000.

The number of public teachers in Michigan peaked in 2004-05, at 117,973, according to an article on That number has been steadily declining since, losing nearly 9 percent of teachers or about 10,000 jobs by 2010-11 largely due to budget cuts, according to figures cited by MLive from the Center for Educational Performance and Information.

Washtenaw County school districts are weighing two things right now as they determine how many staff they will either hire or lay off: Budget and retirement projections for 2012-13 and possible reforms to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS).

As of early May, a total of 63 teachers in the county had given their retirement notices. Most districts are still in the process of deciding whether to replace those staff members.

“I left a job that I was at for 10 years because I wanted to make this happen, because I felt passionate that (teaching) is what I was meant to do,” St. John said. “You have to take those risks in life when you feel compelled to move forward, but sometimes I do question whether it was the right decision.”

However, St. John acknowledged she is luckier than most, and especially the young teachers who are right out of college, because she has a husband who can support her as she pursues her dream.

“Those who are single or dating, I imagine have to take any type of job just to get a student loan bill in,” she said.

One silver lining is through all of her substitute teaching positions, she has been able to visit most of the school districts in Washtenaw County and has enjoyed meeting a variety of educators.

And while St. John definitely has her favorite districts, she isn’t naming names.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

RE: " ...she knew in her heart that in order to really make a difference in the lives of underserved and struggling children..." Alright: then who is "under-serving" these kids? Tell ya who that is: it's the parents. That Ms. St. John has a heart which impels her to compensate for this parental "under-service" is a statement about the larger picture, one wherein we've become (rather arrogantly) "expectant" of teachers and police and other public service workers. We owe little, we demand much - how likely is this state of affairs to go on and succeed? NOT very likely. Point of information: unemployment among teachers is a national problem. And it's political ideology which is behind this massive problem. You don't have to go far to find the political group which claims to have all the answers, the implementation of which is the proven to be the cause of the "failure of public education." A political party which continually campaigns against public education will naturally be ready to do what they can to undermine public education. And they will succeed, every last misguided one of them, if we keep electing them to legislative seats and governor's chairs. They are: the R-word Party, the same party which can't stand the utterance of the "V-word." They are the R-word Party; those who both promote and ignore Biblical principles (like: One cannot serve God and riches at the same time.), according to which phrase suits their agenda best at any given time. Hail to the R-word Party and those who support you: you bring us under-served, under-educated and ever more manipulable children.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

It certainly seems true that humanities and arts based subjects are practically worthless in terms of pecuniary potential. And really what's the point of being taught history, given that we're doomed to repeat it? Why not go all the way and simply scrap all liberal arts subjects from all United States schools? Besides, who needs history teachers when Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow can feed you all the history YOU need know. And all you really need to know is that historically the Left/Right is evil. While we're at it, let's cut all music programs as well as all sports--including football and basketball because, realistically, what are the odds a child will attain gainful employment as a pro football or basketball player? First graders should be taught the basics of computing language while simultaneously learning the basics of the English language. All school curricula should be 95 math/science/technology based with five percent allocated to reading/English. There should be no physical education because the jobs of the future will likely require sitting for extended periods of time and looking at a computer screen anyway. Let's just get rid of teachers altogether. Computers can teach our kids everything they need to know anyway and they don't require benefits. Yes, a total computer based and technology centric curriculum is the way to go for all schools. Heck, let's put Juilliard and all performing arts schools on the chopping block as well, what with the advent of more and more realistic looking computer characters, real life performers will soon be obsolete. There, I have given you the blueprint for the United States to become the world leader in technology (and misery). Onward, I say to this brave new world!


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

Where does it say she teaches Arts/Humanities? She has a psychology degree and teaching certificate (in what area, we do not know). Or are you implying they (state gov't) are cutting all the worthwhile education classes? Let's not forget that the number of students in this state has decreased by some 10% over the past decade. One would expect this to result in a corresponding decrease in teachers.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

Ms. St. John may have completed her training in 2005, but she did not receive her certificate until 2006 according to this website: I think she was very fortunate to have secured a job with a charter school in 2008 and should not have quit it until she found new employment, regardless of how much she didn't like it. Her experience is no different than that of many other certified teachers I know. Those friends and family I know who are trying to make it as teachers in Michigan have been forced to take part-time jobs and jobs outside of their field of expertise (as teacher aides, assistants, alternate education, etc.). It's a many-year process to move up. While I feel for Ms. St. John (it's frustrating to try and try for something without achieving it), her experience is not newsworthy at all.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

Lisa needs to look across the country for a teaching job, or be willing to do something else, if she wants to stay in Washtenaw County. That's the way it is. The older she gets, the worse it gets for her in terms of hiring. She is already too expensive to hire, from the perspective of Wash Cty districts. Area colleges keep churning out grads in education with little hope of employment in Michigan. There is something very wrong with this picture. Every grad doesn't want to move to Texas or N Dakota. Area colleges need to lower their enrollments in their Education Departments. It's not fair to students who pay big bucks to go through programs expecting jobs which are simply not there, unless you are special ed and that is becoming saturated.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:36 p.m.

JRW - area colleges and universities won't lower the numbers accepted in education programs, they want their money, no matter what. U of M has increased the number of students involved in their El Mac program, it brings in around $70,000 per student for one year. No one really cares if there aren't jobs out there for the new teachers, they got their $$$$$


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

In AAPS, for example, you have to know someone already employed to get a job, or be related to someone already employed in the district. New teachers are hired right out of college without higher degrees, because they are cheaper. The only way to get a teaching job in AAPS is: 1) be related to someone already employed in the district, 2) complete your student teaching in AAPS, 3) if married, have kids in the district. Hiring "outsiders" just doesn't happen.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 3:15 a.m.

Additionally, many of my colleagues came from the "outside." There is no algorithm that the public can create to determine how teachers are hired. And, when you are new in the district you have little say as to where you will teach and what grade as new teachers are the first to be surplused or transferred based on needs of each school yearly. Lastly, in the two years I have been employed in the AAPS school district I have NEVER worked less than 40 hours a week. My first year teaching I was at school almost every Sunday of the entire year. And, I work every summer not only preparing for the new school year but at a paid position connected to the schools so I can pay my school loans off sooner and because I enjoy working with kids. By the way, school ends on June 15th, and officially teachers go back to trainings/professional development August 28th. The week before that, most teachers are in their rooms setting up. So forgot about 3 months of hanging out at the beach. I commute 1/2 an hour (could be a lot worse), I love what I do, I see the direct impact I have on my students DAILY, and I'm grateful to have a job in my chosen profession. I invite you to come walk a day in my shoes. If you want to continue teacher bashing after that, I guess I can't stop you. But my hope is that informed citizens that do their homework will be able to see through the assumptions made in these comments.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 3:14 a.m.

JRW, This is just not true. I am a A2 teacher in my thirties finishing my second year of teaching elementary. I was hired "right out of college" but not in the traditional sense. My good fortune came after a number of years of pre-school teaching experience, a bachelor degree at EMU in my late 20's, and doing an Americorps program in another state, which I did to earn money to afford to put myself through college. Just as with many professions, having connections, networking, and leaving a good impression during my two semesters of student teaching was essential, and ultimately payed off. I worked very hard at doing all of those things, while working almost full time in retail and finishing school. I subbed for two months and was hired 4 months after graduating from EMU. When I was hired, no one that I actually worked with was on the hiring committee, and I do not have children in the district. The hiring pool was in the thousands. I'm sure there were many who were just as qualified as I am, but it comes down to numbers. Being new, I am at the bottom of the pay scale in the district (upper 30's, Adam is right) so from a financial standpoint, I am a "good hire" for A2. I have wonderful benefits that help support my family and I am thankful for them daily. I do not come from a family of means or college education, so I feel fortunate to be a part of a professional community that supports a common goal of working with children. I plan on getting a masters degree in reading, because contrary to many misinformed beliefs on this website, many teachers would actually like to get their certification renewed through a program where they are gaining extra knowledge directly related to their profession. You can get credits that only renew your certification, and that is a perfectly acceptable choice.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:31 p.m.

JRW, so not true! You forgot that AAPS does hire a lot of the U of M El Mac students, the ones who get a Masters in teaching during one intense year of schooling. They are always looking for minority teachers, and maybe males at the elementary levels.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

Where is your data to support your claim that "Hiring outsiders just doesn't happen."? As a teacher in Ann Arbor who was hired from a field of over 600 applicants, I can tell you that: 1) I'm not related to anyone employed by AAPS or any other school district in the county, 2) did my student teaching in A2 but was not hired by that principal or the school, but through HRS, 3) did not have kids in the district. I'm not an "insider" I got hired based on my educational background, my credentials, my interview and the lessons I was required to teach as part of the hiring process.

Fat Bill

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

I have often considered returning to EMU to obtain my teaching certificate. Having done a bit of research, I know I will have to pickup up a B.S. in Chemistry, Biology, or Mathematics along with a Secondary certification if I hope to be employed in this area. Otherwise, populations are exploding in garden spots like the North Dakota oil patch...

Elijah Shalis

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

I think I figured out why Conservatives always bash teachers, they got bad grades as a student. Their ignorance is now leading them to be Conservative.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.

I earned excellent grades as a student. Based on statistics alone, they were probably better than yours. Trust me, progressives have far from a lock on intelligence.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

Lisa may have to do what all of my children had to do. She needs to search for a job nationwide. It's an unfortunate sign of the times. After seven years without a teaching assignment locally...Well. You've got to read the handwriting on the wall, sadly.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

or she could start looking outside the county first.

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

I feel for her, I really do. I've been teaching for seven years, and it was mid-career switch for me too (from the awful world of Law). Some of the problem is that teacher ed programs just keep churning out students with certifications in areas that will, quite bluntly, never land them jobs. To wit: Social Studies, English, Elementary Education, Physical Education, Music, Art. Oh sure, once in awhile you will get an opening, but it is very difficult. Back in the day, EMU would tell prospective teachers that they could major in those areas and go to Florida, North Carolina, Texas or Alaska (!) to find jobs; those days are long gone and I have no idea what EMU is telling kids now. Here are TeacherPatti's recommendations for those thinking of teaching: 1) Be willing to drive. I am so so SO tired of this Ann Arbor mentality that says it is awful to drive to work. I know people who drive an hour or more for teaching (and other) jobs. You need to let go of the idea that you will teach near where you live. Maybe you will and then think of what a nice surprise it will be! But keep your mind open. 2) Be willing to work in the inner cities but... 3) willing then to adapt an entirely new way of teaching. Much of the little games and crap that they taught us in "teacher school" simply don't work with kids who are being moved around every month, getting abused/neglected, eating crap or not eating except at school, kids who are homeless, kids who were born addicted, kids who have no discipline in their home, kids who stay up til 3:00am either because the house is a'rockin' or because no one makes them go to bed, kids who have no prior knowledge before coming to Kindergarten, kids who are in constant pain because of unmet dental (and other medical) needs, and I could go on and on (oh! I have! :)). This of course is not restricted to the inner city or even places of high poverty, but it does happen quite a bit (trust me, I know)

david st. crystal

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

Patti, while I commend you for your wonderful accomplishments, I believe you're talking completely out of your rear. Regarding teaching certifications that "never land (students) jobs," you list Social Studies, English, Elementary Education, Physical Education, Music, and Art. An elementary cert. in this state allows one to teach self-contained K through 8, so any job in any elementary school in MI is fair game. The endorsements you list would allow even more possibilities, although apparently you're claiming jobs are only available in middle school and high school science/math, which is absolute rubbish. If you have any kind of proof or statistics that prove otherwise, provide a link. Your suggestions about being "willing to drive" and how to "work in the inner cities" are condescending, platitudinous, and obvious to every serious candidate.

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

Thanks :) I know it sounds kind of harsh in places, but I have been preaching this for years.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

Very wise advice.

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

4) There is not now, nor has there ever been (except maybe for a hot minute in 1999) a "teacher shortgage". There is no shortgage of special ed teachers any more. Math, Science, Special Ed, Foreign Language majors might have a somewhat easier time finding a job, but keep in mind that many jobs in Special Ed are now "consultant" jobs (like mine) that require a Masters, at least three years of teaching experience and being highly qualified in at least one core subject (I am). 5) Network, network, network. It really and truly is about who you know, like in any job I suppose. GOOD LUCK! Love, TeacherPatti

Michigan Man

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4 p.m.

Maybe more big government call solve this woman's job/teaching dilema. I suppose the academic elite could hose the public by increasing tax money to create a position for this woman? I see very few comments of support, ideas, strategies for employment being offered by the teaching crowd to this woman from our community who is looking for work. Not feeling alot of love from the teaching community toward this person. Kind of sounds like = I got mine - could care less about you?

J. A. Pieper

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

Not really Michigan Man, it takes work to get a teaching job. Many of us had to struggle to get one even years ago. We put in our time getting laid off, bumped to other buildings, other grade levels, never doing the same thing two years in a row. It's worse in today's world, but there is a feeling that those who do land a job have to prove themselves somehow. There are so many candidates, the competition is tough, not everyone can get this "dream job". As teachers, we know many people who want to get into education, want jobs locally, but there is very little we can do.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Is this really news? Too bad for her but there are thousands of people who can't get their ideal job in their ideal location. That is life.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

I think it's news because it relates to the decrease in funding to schools, which has affected the amount of teachers that can be hired. The facts show that Michigan produces more teachers than are needed in the state. In addition, teachers in our current culture need to be ready to move around and go where the work is. A select few can have the option of picking a school district that they would like to work in and get a job there. That's just not reality anymore.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

That's sort of depressing. My husband is just about to start his student teaching in the Fall, but he won't be so picky in where he goes. Whether it's Alaska or South Korea. Lol.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Teaching English in South Korea, and in Taiwan pay QUITE well.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

First of all, it's public information, so I don't know why so many people are confused about what AAPS teachers make. Here's the salary schedule. Tack on about 30K for fringe benefits. We are paid well in my opinion, and I am grateful to all those who value education and accept the higher property taxes that requires. Secondly, this woman's experience is unfortunate, but probably not the norm. I moved to A2 in August 2008, and two weeks later I was hired over 70 other applicants for a full time teaching position. I came to the district at 31 years old with five years teaching experience and a Masters.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

Everything you ever wanted to know about teacher pay:,1607,7-147-6877_8150---,00.html


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

The difference is you came with 5 years of teaching experience. She has basically NONE (1 year experience four years ago). There are many experienced teachers who have been displaced that will be picked up first.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Adam Adam Adam he's our man!!!!! If he can't do it then no one can.

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

You all are paid well, much much bette than me (but I don't hate). That is VERY unusual and I actually think I know the situation because I student taught there and heard about it from my teacher friends there. As you seem to get, you were very lucky, but those other 79 applicants weren't so.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:33 p.m.

Good point about there being fewer Special Ed openings. However, secondary teachers (like myself) are limited by their subject area when finding a position, which is a constraint as well. I'm sure my situation was not the norm either, and I'm very thankful that I was able to get a job so quickly at a school I love. I was just trying to provide a counterpoint to the article's implication that it takes years of subbing and applying to land a teaching job around here.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3 p.m.

I'd be willing to bet that your situation is abnormal - there were probably 150 applicants who didn't get the job that you got and probably 5-10 who were interviewed for the same position that you got. But you also have to factor in that she's likely going after a job working with kids with learning disabilities; based on the fact that's what she has an endorsement in. Getting a job in special education is a lot harder because there are far fewer jobs open in any one specific district. There may be 35 total regular teaching positions open at the end of the year and only 10 special education positions and probably far fewer dealing specifically with learning disabilities.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

if she want's a permanant job that bad she should be willing to look outside of Washtenaw County, outside of Michigan


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

Those that complain about teachers having it easy need to walk in a teachers shoes for a couple of weeks. This includes time outside of the classroom at home and on the weekends. Maybe this will open their eyes and provide some understanding that the job is not a cakewalk. For those that think individuals get into teaching to have the summers off should understand that teachers are in the profession to educate children, not for the salary but for the love of working with children and the education process.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:08 p.m.

grye, sadly what you said is so true. Those who complain about teachers, come and share a day with us! Want to get bit, have chairs thrown at you, get kicked, have your things stolen, have your life threatened, the lives of classmates threatened, the list goes on and on. And this is in AAPS. Not all schools are equal, many face challenges like this daily. Even the administrators at Balas have been removed from the classroom too long, and forgotten what it is like, they need to take over a classroom for a week on their own, to see what their teachers face.

greg, too

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

The article lost me at dozens. I have been looking for an ed position in SE Michigan for 5 years and, when faced with the prospect of not finding one, I looked elsewhere. I was willing to commute and willing to do what was needed to get a job. Has she looked at getting her MA, which I believe is required for some of the jobs in certain districts? Has she looked at community colleges, which only require a MA and no extra certification? Has she subbed? And the story is misleading as she had a job in Detroit. Why quit in this economy unless you have an incredibly good reason (no car, kids shooting at you, children, etc)? She quit because she didn't like it there. If that really is the reason, then she has no claims for sympathy as she found a job most people would love to have. Charter school kids need teachers too. Sorry, I have absolutely not a single shred of sympathy for this woman and I hope that none of the schools in the area do anything rash and hire her for pr.

greg, too

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:22 a.m.

julieswhimsies, I just read it a second time. What did I miss?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Have you read the article, Greg?

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

I agree about the commuting thing. It drives me nuts when people (esp. in a2) just will not leave the Bubble or county. I'd drive 2 hours if I had to. Still though, I feel for her.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

It is difficult to find a specific job if you limit the search area to defined confines. If she would entertain a wider area, she would probably find a job without much difficulty.

greg, too

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

There are jobs in areas outside of A2, you just have to go find them. If she is as qualified as she thinks she is, she could have a job starting in the fall in Chicago, Columbus, or any of the close by metro areas. Living in an area as nice as we do does have it's drawbacks...i.e. people don't leave their jobs until they retire and will also take less to get a job here (in the education field at least).


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

So she quit her job, narrowed her search down to non-charter schools, got more education; meaning the school would have to pay more for her to start, and then further narrowed down her choices to only schools in Washtenaw anyone else not shocked that she hasn't found a job yet? My wife, who graduated 5 years ago with a teaching degree in special education, had similar criteria in the sense of location when she was looking for a job. I have a job with UM and she needed a job in relatively close proximity so I could still commute to work and she could commute to work as well. After student teaching in Ann Arbor, being a teachers assistant in Ann Arbor, getting a long term sub job in Ann Arbor and knowing many people in the administrative positions in Ann Arbor she finally gave up searching for job in Ann Arbor and got one in Jackson. Most of the open positions end up going to "internal candidates". The list of them is extremely long. Getting a teaching job in Michigan isn't hard; getting one in one specific area is extremely hard. Just in the Ann Arbor school district, there are very few special education jobs open every year. And when you're in a pool of a few thousand applicants for the jobs, it's going to be hard to get them - especially since most go to "internal candidates". You have to be the best of the best and even if St. John is one of the best - she's also 40. And when administrators are looking for candidates to fill low position jobs - they want to hire a newly graduated teacher they can pay $30,000 to start; not a 40 year old with a masters who they have to pay $45,000 to start.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.

An internal candidate usually leaves another job in the district, hence creating another vacancy. Yes, there is nepotism in AAPS, which means we are not necessarily hiring the most qualified people. Additionally, AAPS is big on hiring minorities, and is currently hiring many new teachers who have graduated form the U of M El Mac program, where they work on getting their Masters in teaching during an intensive one year program. Unless you fit into one of these categories, good luck.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

"internal candidates" AND children of teachers/staff.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Nelson proposed replacing the 32 staff members with all new hires for a savings of about $960,000. He said to hire a new teacher costs the district about $70,000 per teacher, whereas to hire an experienced teacher costs about $100,000. I don't know exactly what these figures mean but I do know that a NEW teacher in any Michigan district does not make $70,000 nor does an experienced teacher make $100, 000, starting out. Maybe they are referring to benefits....still seems very high.

Jeffersonian Liberal

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Let's not let this teachable moment go by without pointing out the obvious. While it is ok to have hopes and dreams, they have to be grounded in reality. If you are going to invest the money to get a degree, get one that useful in the free market. Wasting money on useless degrees such as psychology, sociology and black studies will not put a roof over your head and pay your bills. Pay attention children, don't waist your parents money, get a real degree!

Joe Wood

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

What about "Dairy Science"?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Schools need more teachers like St John, she wants to teach, instead of teachers that get into the field just to get the summer off. It's too bad the union protects teachers that don't teach. Good luck Lisa and don't give up trying.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

I'm not sure the correct to characterize this woman as a "teacher." Though she obtained a teaching certificate in 2005, the article makes clear that she only had one short-term teaching job, which she left for personal reasons. My guess is that it's Ms. St. John's lack of experience more than anything else that has precluded her from finding a position. Furthermore, Ms. St. John's experience aside, I think it's ludicrous to characterize an individual with a piece of paper to be "qualified" in any sense to teach children. Many teachers today are simply adults who enjoy working with children - not high-caliber intellectuals with the wherewithal to explain complex issues to young and impressionable minds.

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

I wish you would have said it in a different way, but I kind of see where you are going with this. I was already teaching adult ed when I got my teaching certificate and I honestly can't say how much I learned from the classes. I have an issue with people (almost always women) who say that they are going into teaching because they "love children"...then get into day care, love. Having said that, I like to think I'm intellectual...I got my Doctor of Law in 2 1/2 years and have a great IQ...not sure if that makes me an intellectual or not! PS: Go Army! (Sorry, my dad's an Army guy :))

Lac Court Orilles

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

A2 falls within Senator Richardville's, Representative Olson's, and Representative Quimet's distirct. I suggest that Ms. St. John contact these three really smart legislatures and let them know that she's willing to work for minimum wage with no benefits or retirement. This is exactly the kind of teachers they are legislating for, so they'll work really hard to find her a job so they can claim that they created jobs in their districts. Then they can use Ms. St. John as their conservative posterchild for the "new" teaching profession. They will be seen as the saviors of the conservative class!

Basic Bob

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.



Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Where is the National Association of Gals? "because she has a husband who can support her" I guess the women's movement is over?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

"She decided to return to school to get her master's degree in education and an endorsement in learning disabilities." "Despite submitting dozens of applications, her substitute teaching experience and going back to obtain her master's degree." Re: The quotes above, the writer of this article never really confirmed that she completed a Master's Degree...did she?

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

David, it doesn't. I looked myself up before and it just has my three certifications listed; none of my highly qualified and none of my degrees. That said, English is hard to find a job in; Psychology is impossible. To be in LD (I am), you generally will be a teacher consultant, which requires three years of teaching experience.

David Waligora

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

You can search teach credentials. Name : LISA M ST. JOHN Certificate # : PV0000000769766 Certificate Type : Provisional Teaching Certificate 1st Renewal Program : Secondary Issue Date : 3/29/2012 Expiration Date : 6/30/2015 Subject / Grade Level PSYCHOLOGY (CE) 6-12 ENGLISH (BA) 6-12 LEARNING DISABILITIES (SM) K-12 I thought it would mention a masters degree if you had one, but I could be wrong on that.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Since she is currently searching for a full-time teaching position she must have a teaching certificate, so I think it's safe to assume she did.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

As a current teacher I am contemplating the necessity of getting a second job because I barely make enough to pay my bills. I will be working through the summer and hope to make enough to supplement the schoolyear salary. It's problematic if teachers are getting second jobs because it is impossible to be a good teacher within a 40 hour workweek. I know that my classroom instruction and student assessment will change if I have to get a second job. While this is not ideal, this is a reality. I'm not sure that we can financially devalue the teaching profession while expecting high outcomes.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

@Topher: Not a teacher, but closely related enough to 5, both by blood and by marriage to be intimately familiar with the workload and the note pads in every teachers desk that say what the three best things about being a teacher are. ALL the teachers I am related to work very hard all year long. ALL the non-teachers I am related to work very hard all year long as well. Everybody needs time off, nobody NEEDS close to 3 months off. They get it as part of their job, that's fine. That's what they signed up for and it probably has a lot to do with why so many people want to be teachers - which is the root cause of this lady's inability to find a job. psssst: Everybody's job is rigorous and stressful. That "I'm special" dog don't hunt.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

@EyeHeartA2 - Are you a teacher too? I can't tell if you are being cynical or are actually a teacher and understand the rigor and stress of the schoolyear. If you do understand, you know that the intensity of the summer allows for downtime and recovery but also for major planning and curriculum development (since I'm not teaching 5 hours each day I will be reviewing books, planning lessons, and considering the new Common Core State Standards that will be implemented and tested in the next few years). If you don't understand, I would invite you to shadow for a week or a month. That will start to give you the perspective of a teacher and the working year. Maybe we can trade jobs and shadow one another. @Mike - 90k is incorrect for a Master's anywhere in the greater Washtenaw County (even for Saline, which pays the most). You can look up this payscale information on the Transparency report on each district's website - no district gets to 90k at the top of the payscale for just a Master's. Perhaps with a PhD you can earn that much (I haven't looked at this info.), but in reality no district will hire someone with a PdD to be a classroom teacher.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

As a teacher, you're working a part time job by means of the length of the school year. As you have admitted, you have time to get a job during the summer, which should bring your income up to the level required to pay your bills. In doing so, you will essentially be joining the ranks of "full-time workers," who do not have the luxury of several summer months off.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Once again, Mike, check your sources. Your $90K figure is fictional, much higher even than teachers who have a master's and 20 years of experience.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

I have seen published reports that teachers with masters degrees in the Ann Arbor area make $90K. That requires a second job? Maybe a lifestyle spending change would be easier. Drive a used car, make your house more energy efficient, etc....


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Yep. I'll be working through the summer too. Horrible, isn't it?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

Teachers should be commended for their dedication. Saying that they also have to enter the profession with eyes wide open. My wife graduated way back in 1975 - she has had teaching jobs in several states we have resided in. Now being in Michigan where the waiting list for new teachers exceeds 10 years in elementary education she has dedicated her time to substituting. $$ rewarding - no - but she loves it. I agree with JB1 - you cannot live on substituting and entry level teacher salaries - regretable - but true

Unusual Suspect

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

You either need to move to another state or defer your teaching career for a while.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

In this economy why would you quit a charter school job? I realize it wasn't her dream job but it is usually easier to get another job if you are already employed plus you add valuable experience to your resume. The teachers union is to blame for the high cost of hiring her and therefore making her union mandated salary unattractive as a new hire. Good teachers are paid the same as bad ones under the rules also. Time for a total revamp of the teachers unions and work rules is what I'm taking away from this article.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

@Wondering, the 18 credits specifically have to be college credits and not SB-CEUs, according to a 2011 MDE document. That can be very costly for someone making $30-40,000 a year.

Basic Bob

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

@Patti, Everything is relative. If you don't get hired by the public schools, private and charter schools still pay better than fast food, and it looks a whole lot better on your resume than landscaping.

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

BINGO! An anti-teachers' union comment! And yes, while "good" teachers are paid same as "bad" ones, guess what they are paid at charters? Not much at all!


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Topher- The state does not require teachers to get a Master's within a certain time period. Teachers can choose to get 18 SB-CEU's within a certain time frame instead of the classes through a University.

Jeff Frank

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

It's very likely that she didn't quit the charter school but that they quit her or went out of business since several Detroit charters have folded over the years, often to rise from their own ashes as a "new" charter so they can start over on meeting state-required testing requirements.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

It's not all union. The state requires that teachers obtain a Master's within a certain time period (9 credits for the first renewal, then 9 more after 3 years). So the state system has teachers become more skilled, which they then receive a higher salary for. The other option is to still require teachers to get the Master's and then not pay them more. This is problematic because no teacher will be able to afford the high cost of graduate credits while still teacher, unless the teacher is independently wealthy or has a spouse that makes a large salary. Personally I find it problematic because getting a Master's (and becoming more skilled) might potentially put me at a disadvantage to becoming hired (even though I think it will make me a better teacher and help to better serve students).


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

In order to lower pay and benefits across the board, our corporate governors, especially Rick Snyder want to de-professionalize all public service jobs turning them into little more than factory work. This is the trend in private business and since the conservative mantra is to privatize all public services, it won't be long until teachers are little more than janitors and baby sitters. Eventually the only people who are able to get an education are those who can afford it. Not too long from now, if the cut taxes and public jobs crowd has their way, only those who can afford to pay for private safety services (police and fire) will have them. Those who live in gated communities will be abler to afford services, the rest will be on their own and do without. Taxes will be cut so much that regular folks, services will not be available for those who can't afford to pay for schools, fire and police, garbage pickup and other generally accepted public services will not. This is the beginning if a much deeper cleavage, a further widening of the gap between the haves and the have not. A deepening of social inequality and economic justice. It's a classic case stealth class warfare conducted on the working class in this country.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.

@basic bob I guess you and I have a different opinion of when this recession is over. PS: I do have a private sector job. But, I do not cry because I make less money so everyone should make less money.

Paul Epstein

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Well said. As the US makes its beeline toward the Eleventh Century, we will find our nation becoming the Butt of the world. We are already irretrievably behind most other democracies in virtually every category. Thanks, "Conservatives"!

Basic Bob

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

@drew_blows, 1. The recession is over. 2. Private sector pay is still flat (but hours are increasing). 3. Private sector employers continue to transfer benefit costs to the employee. When you peek outside from your bubble, you will want to stay inside.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Mike: I am curious about your statement of Gov Snyder bringing public sector salary more in line with private sector pay. If this recession ends and private sectors pay increases would you then support public sectors pay increasing similar?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Sounds like somebody who lives in another world. "Taxes will be cut so much" Where are Taxes cut so much, they just move them around and raise them!


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

While the general population, many of them professionals, are making less money than they ever have you are complaining that our governor is doing the responsible think and bring the public sector in line with the private? Taxes are not being cut, they are being increased. Every fee you can think of has gone up, taxes are hidden in everything you buy; cell phone, land lines, fuel, etc. You're buying into the class warfare garbage being spewed out from those who want more regulation and higher taxes and you'll be stuck in that rut until you figure out that you are responsible for yourself as an adult not your tax paying neighbors.

Michael Weinstein

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

New teachers make 70,000 and experienced teachers make 100,000 ..... For 9 months of work..... I thought teachers were underpaid?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

@ Doug: Everybody thinks they work long and hard. Teachers aren't saints, by any means. A quick foray into the typical life of a non-unionized office worker will reveal plenty of long hours and hardship.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Here's the 2010 teacher pay schedule as of October 2010.

Michigan Man

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

Michael - Be careful - the teacher union acolytes will track you down for the mandatory re-education camp attendance.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

He's using the numbers given in the article for Ann Arbor teachers. It WOULD be interesting to know how that breaks down to salary and VERY GENEROUS benefits.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

Michael, You obviously have no idea how much teachers make nor how long they work. Please do some research before making comments on a subject you are not familiar with.

Elijah Shalis

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

That is a lie. I know many new teachers that make 33,000 a year and can't afford their student loans. What are your sources?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

Michael, those figures depict not how much these teachers are paid, but rather how much they cost the Ann Arbor school district. This includes both salary and benefits and what the district pays in FICA, or insurance costs.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:26 a.m.

You have to wonder if going back to school to get her masters will hurt her chances of getting a teaching job--- some union contracts stipulate that a person with a masters will be paid more.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

I thought the same thing. Most of the friends I have who teach at a elementary or high waited until after they got hired to get their Masters.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:12 a.m.

"St. John added she is finding there are many summer teaching positions open for local summer school programs because the permanent, full-time teachers want their summers off." Don't mean to nitpick, but most teachers do not have the summers "off." They work on writing and learning new curriculum, taking classes, and revamping their current practice. Some take part-time jobs. I'm sure there are some who have the luxury to sit on the beach all summer, but they aren't many in number.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

I'm an Ann Arbor high school teacher and when I have "summers off" that means I don't have another paying job over the summer. Every teacher I know does teaching-related work (curriculum, conferences, professional development, etc.) during the summer. For me, it's certainly not at the intense pace as it is during the school year but it certainly is work. If you were to calculate my work hours for just teaching, grading, attending staff meetings and serving as faculty advisor for a club (unpaid) you'd be surprised at what that comes to. Factor in the likes of after school work with students who need extra help, teacher conferences, committee work, etc. and I'd say I'm definitely underpaid.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

Actually, GoNavy, many of us teachers have to work in the summer in order to pay our bills because those huge salaries are largely a myth (at least in the district I work in). My husband and I are both teachers (he's been looking for a permanent teaching job since 2006 without any luck), live in a small apartment in Ypsi and both have to work year round to keep up. Don't assume we're all sitting around drinking cocktails by the pool all summer. We're just trying to make ends meet the same as everyone else in this economy.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

Teaching contracts are 9 month contracts...thus they do have the summer's off. School districts allow them to keep their benefits over the summer, but officially they are not employed as a teacher for those 3 summer months. I know this because I have had one of those contracts (being a former middle school teacher for many years). Thus if a teacher is paid $40,000...that is $40,000 for 9 months, not 12 months. Thus teachers could supplement this income with a summer job.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

Compensation package is more than salary (medical insurance and other benefits). Teachers are bring home pay much less than 70,000.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Northside according to the article, a new hire has a total compensation package $70,000, while an experienced teacher has a total compensation package of a cool $100.000/year. I am not saying that they are overpaid, but a family can live a good life with that level of compensation. And teachers have historically had great retirement packages, although it appears that is changing now.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

@ Go: I have a lot of friends who teach and I've never heard one suggest it is a full-time job during the summer. What they do say is that it's well over a 40/hours a week during the school, so the summer months involving a lighter workload provides balance. Let's not forget that the average teacher in the U.S. (K-12) makes $50,000/year. That's not much by the standards of other professional positions.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

I always expect to find this old row that attempts to justify the notion that teaching is a "full time job." I'm *highly confident* that if anything near "full time work" were required during the summer on the part of teachers, the teachers' union would ensure compensation for that work for their members. I spend all year writing and learning new information. Much of that is done on my own time, apart for what my employer compensates me for. Should I charge my employer for work I do on my own time to teach myself? I find it comical that teachers have the gumption to compare their efforts over the summer months to the sort of real, full-time work most of us perform year-round.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

Perhaps her failure to recognize it being a year-round job is related to her trouble finding one?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

I have a niece who graduated from Western Michigan in Kalmazoo. She didn't start teaching until she had her children and they were all in school. She has been looking for a teaching job for 16 years and after a divorce got her certificate and has been looking for 15 years. She was 40 when she started looking for a full time teaching job. she has been subbing steady all those years. Her problem is she is a History major. They don't want her because of her age now and she isn't qualified to coach sports. If you are 40 you are "too old" to get a full time teaching job. They will not hire you because of medical insurance costs. She raised 3 children subbing and saw them all through college subbing just about full time at crap wages. She worked almost every day in one school system for 2 years as the "in school suspension" teacher. When the job opening came up for that job she applied and on the last day of taking apps another teacher in the district applied for the job and got it. The reason he applied for the job was he wanted to move up to principal and had to have at least one year as ISS to be considered for most principal positions. She is a fine teacher who has dedicated her self to children all over her life. She found out that history majors don't get a job unless they are qualified to be a coach sports. How pathetic is that.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

Does her certificate endorsement say "history" or "social studies"? Those are considered two different fields and most schools do not hire history certs. Social Studies means the teacher is endorsed to teach government, economics, etc., not just history. My husband is certified in history and schools won't even consider his resume if they're looking for someone with a more versatile social studies endorsement. That might have a lot to do with it if she's history and not social studies (and I'm speaking about secondary education, not elementary).

Patti Smith

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

I go to a lot of schools in my job and yes, there are the ones with the "young pretty blondes" but mostly not. You are right...her problem is the major. And yes, they want coaches. Being male helps too...we can of course debate that, and it's just something I've witnessed personally, so I don't have stats to back it up.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:10 a.m.

I am skeptical about them not hiring her because "40 is too old." In the districts I am aware of, the cost is distributed among the district and teachers; it is NOT more expensive to hire an older teacher. In addition, that type of discrimination is illegal, so I'm sure no one told her she is too old to hire. It is likely more realistic that districts are looking for someone with more teaching experience. I wish her luck.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:32 a.m.

"So she got a teaching certificate in 2005 from Saginaw Valley State University." This is part of the problem. SVSU, along with many other universities turn out teachers in numbers. They continue to admit and graduate students year after year, in a field that currently has very limited job prospects. The article doesn't say where she earned her graduate degree from, but many also obtain degrees from questionable online colleges--also not terribly attractive to potential employers. Teaching is rapidly becoming a profession where you can no longer expect to be able to support a family, or earn at a level appropriate to your skills and expertise. But that's OK, because the great corporate CEO's and "job creators" are earning millions. They are important--those who educate your children are not.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 1:36 a.m.

Eagleman, maybe you don't know that teachers pay the taxes that pay their salaries? If teaching is such a cake job with a whopping huge salary, golden benefits, and no taxes, quit whining and get yourself a teaching certificate. Oh wait...cake job, whopping salary, golden benefits, no taxes...that would be the job description for the work of Willard Mitt Romney!


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

You do realize that there are far more teachers than CEO's don't you? And it is the very limited number of CEO's as well as their importance in the structure of acompany that accounts for the larger salaries they command. You also need to realize that it is corporations and businesses who create the revenue that pays the salaries of workers that pay the taxes that go to funding schools and, yes, teacher salaries. So really, CEO's ARE more important for if our companies fail we as a nation either collapse or lapse back into an agrarian society. I understand that it is acceptable among the Left to bash business but that does not make such ignorant statements okay. Business is the lifeblood of our country. Both parties understand this. Why don't you?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

@Ponycar & @gh2001 - Keep in mind that the cost per teacher they are talking about in the article is 'total compensation' not just the salary. So, yes, teachers 'taking home' a salary of $80K have years of experience combined with advanced degrees, their total compensation is significantly more.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

Ponycar, you need to check your resources. Teachers are not being hired in making that type of money. If you call your school district they are required by law to provide you with salary information of their employees. Any teacher that is remotely close to $80,000 per year has multiple degrees and has been teaching for 30+ years, and they have earned that salary. Also, please be careful not to generalize the teaching profession. Teacher salary and benefits are negotiated and vary through out the county and depend on what each district can/will offer. Just because Ann Arbor chooses to pay their teachers a certain salary does not mean that is what the teachers in Saline, Chelsea, Manchester, Milan, Ypsi, Willow Run get.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

With the ones actually getting hired making $80-$100k/yr, that's patently untrue.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:31 a.m.

Is St. John certified for primary or secondary teaching? I think it might also be helpful to know something about the subject areas she is qualified to teach. Obviously an endorsement in learning disabilities suggests special ed. But it might be useful to know how crowded her speciality is. That could shed a little more light on whether the issue is entirely about fiscal constraint or perhaps market forces related to supply and demand. Also, you might consider aligning the photo so the building in the background doesn't lean quite so much.