Jefferson County teacher moonlights at dental office to pay bills

Our Colorado: Teacher pay stays stagnant

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KEN CARYL, Colo. — Our Colorado is booming and the only thing growing faster than the Denver skyline is the cost of living. 

While home prices have doubled and rents in Denver are up 36 percent, Colorado's teacher pay has stayed the same.

The state ranks 46th in the nation for teacher salaries, and that reality is hitting Colorado teachers hard many of whom are having to work two jobs to pay the bills.

Krista Degerness is one of those teachers. She works as a special education teacher at Ken Caryl Middle School in Jefferson County and moonlights as a dental assistant in the afternoons to make ends meet.

"[I work] at school probably nine hours, and then at the office, depending on the day, sometimes a little as two or as many as five hours," said Degerness.

Degerness is a second-year teacher and said she makes an annual salary of $42,000, which is not nearly enough to pay for rent or thousands of dollars she owes in student loans.

"I need to be able to pay my bills and teaching alone is not sufficient, especially as a single person. On one income, it's very daunting to do that, and the cost of living is very high, so I ended up moving in with my dad," she said.

Degerness starts her day at around 5:30 a.m. and said her day often doesn't end until after 10:00 p.m.  

"Educators who have second jobs are all over the place. My story is not unique," she said.

A recent report from the National Center for Educational Statistics found about 16 percent of teachers nationwide work second jobs.

"I'm motivated by the fact that I'm making an impact on kids' lives," said Degerness.

The lack of sufficient pay has forced Degerness and other educators to choose whether to give up their passion for teaching or work more and burn the candle at both ends.

For now, Degerness is trying to make it work.

"I would be able to do a better job if I didn't have a second job that is for sure," she said.

Degerness is one of the thousands of Colorado teachers who are voicing their concerns and demanding higher teacher pay and more school funding at the state capitol.

"I hope that the movement makes a difference and it's not just noise," said Degerness.

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