Melena Mayen struggles to live on her current salary.
“I could make so much money doing something else,” she stated. “Then I just think about my students and how much I love watching them learn.”
The 28-year-old eighth grade teacher lives in Denver and is one of more than 2,600 educators who are on strike, while asking the public school system for livable salaries.
Mayen makes $46,483 a year and many of her colleagues also make less than $50,000 annually.
“My husband and I are new to Denver and we’ve been looking at buying a house and realized recently we just really can’t afford it,” she explained. “If I could go to school and not have to worry about where I’m gonna live next year, if my husband and I can even afford to start a family, I could give more of my emotions to my students because I would have more there.”
Mayen theorizes that teachers across the country are striking now in part because of the current political climate. Some of the teachers striking in Denver, including her, say they’ve been criticized for leaving their classrooms to strike, despite the fact that they lose money every day they’re not working. But for many, a few days is worth it for a better education system.
“I think it’s just paramount for people to understand I am out here because I want the best educators to remain in education so that all of our students can have the best education possible,” Mayen said.