45 Enlightening Facts about Teachers

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published August 19, 2016
  • A University of Pennsylvania study found that 33% of teachers leave within the first three years of beginning their careers and 46% leave within the first five. The numbers have been increasing since the late 1980s.[4]
  • A teacher’s contract day does not include time spent at home planning lessons or grading student work. Work at home can range form one hour in the evening planning the next day’s lesson or 16 hours on the weekend grading dozens of essays.[7]
  • In 2009, there were 7.2 million teachers in the United States. Almost 3 million taught at the elementary and middle school levels. The rest taught at the postsecondary, secondary, preschool, and kindergarten levels; in special education; and as other teachers and instructors.[2]
  • In the United States, surveys reveal that teachers are second only to military personal as the occupation that contributes most to society’s well-being.[3]
  • Growing stress is pushing teachers out of the profession
  • Researchers note a teacher should be compared to those of other high stress jobs, such as air-traffic controllers, firefighters, or pilots.[1]
  • Teachers make 14% less than people in other professions that require similar levels of education.[1]
  • After the 1987–88 school year, about 6,000 first-year teachers left the occupation. After the 2007–08 school year, about 26,000 left. One report notes that “not only are there far more beginners in the teaching force, but these beginners are less likely to stay.”[2]
  • In 32 metropolitan areas in the United States, teachers are priced out of owning a home.[4]
  • On average, teachers work an average of 10 hours per day and 52 hours per week.[2]
  • In 2007–08, about 76% of public school teachers were female, 44% were under age 40, and 52% had a master’s degree or higher. In private schools, 74% were female, 39% were under the age of 40, and 38% had a master’s or higher.[2]
  • The average salary for public school teachers in 2011–12 was $56,643 in current dollars, or dollars that are not adjusted for inflation. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the average salary was about only 1% higher in 2011–12 than 20 years earlier in 1990-91.[2]
  • According to the Census Bureau, Pre-K-12 teachers form the largest occupational group in the United States, and it continues to grow.[1]
  • Approximately 92.4% of teachers spend their own money on their students or classrooms.[7]
  • The most common reason a person leaves teaching is the low salary.[4]
  • Teachers appreciate creative gifts
  • A survey of teachers revealed that they have enough mugs, frames, and stuffed animals. They appreciate a gift card to places like Staples or Starbucks—or, even better, a thank you note.[7]
  • From 1987–2012, total K-12 student enrollment in the nation’s schools (public, private, and charter combined) went up by 19.4%. During the same period, the number of teachers increased at over two times that rate, by 46.4%. Since the recession in 2007–2008, however, the growth in the teaching force has leveled off.[2]
  • From 1987–88 to 2007–08, the number of teachers with college majors in special education increased by 102%, compared to about 33% of general elementary school teachers.[2]
  • Teacher retirements have always represented only a small portion of all those leaving teaching, less than a third in recent years. For all departures of teachers from schools (both going from one school to another and leaving teaching altogether), retirement is only about 14% of the total outflow.[4]
  • Since 1950, there has been a 96% increase in students and a 252% increase in teaching staff.[4]
  • Minority teachers are 2–3 times more likely than white teachers to work in hard-to-staff public schools, such as those that serve high-poverty, high-minority, and urban communities.[2]
  • Although minorities have entered the teaching profession at higher rates than whites in recent decades, reports show that minority teachers leave schools at considerably higher rates than that of white teachers.[4]
  • Within most fields and majors, reports show that those students who became teachers had lower SAT scores than those in the same field/major who did not go into teaching.[1]
  • Teachers have an equal turnover rate to police officers and less than child care workers, secretaries, and paralegals. Teaching has a higher turnover rate than nursing and a far higher turnover than “traditionally respected professions” such as law, engineering, architecture, and academia.[1]
  • The modal age of retirement for teachers is about 59 years old.[4]
  • The number of males entering the teaching profession has grown by 26%. The number of women entering teaching has increased at over twice that rate. If the trend continues, researchers conclude that soon 8 out of 10 teachers in America will be female.[2]
  • Teaching remains a female-dominated profession
  • In 1987–88 there were about 65,000 first-year teachers, and by 2007–08, there were over 200,000.[1]
  • Approximately a tenth of newly hired first-year teachers come out of top two categories of higher education (as ranked by Barrons’). Two-thirds of first-year teachers come from middle-level institutions. About a quarter come from the bottom two categories.[1]
  • At least 20% of public school teachers report having second jobs outside of the field of education.[4]
  • The top five high-paying states for public school teachers in 2013 were New York ($75, 279), Massachusetts ($73,129), District of Columbia, Connecticut ($69,766), and California ($69,324).[8]
  • The bottom five states that paid public teachers the least in 2013 were South Dakota ($39,580), Mississippi ($41,994), Oklahoma ($44,128), North Carolina ($45,947), and West Virginia ($46,405).[8]
  • May 7 is National Teacher Appreciation Day.[5]
  • While the list of famous teachers is long, notable educators include Socrates (470 BC-399 BC), Anne Sullivan (1866–1936), Booker T. Washington (1856–1915), Maria Montessori (1870–1952), and John Dewey (1859–1952).[9]
  • When the state of Tennessee forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools, teacher John Scopes decided to test the law by teaching it to his students. He was subsequently arrested and put on trial. Scopes ultimately lost in court and was forced to pay a $100 fine, but he succeeded in bringing evolutionary science into the public school consciousness.[9]
  • The southern U.S. has the highest amount of support for corporal punishment
  • Teachers in 19 states, including Indiana and Missouri, can still paddle students as a form of discipline. While most states that allow corporal punishment are in the South, it is also legal in Idaho and Wyoming.[3]
  • Before Lyndon Johnson was president, he was a teacher. When he was in his early 20s, he taught at three different schools. Records report he was an excellent teacher and received many positive references.[9]
  • Maria Montessori was a famous Italian medical doctor and education reformer who invented the still popular Montessori method. She argued that teachers needed to respect a child’s independence and his or her unique path of psychological development, and that teachers ought to give students freedom to work with hands-on projects. In short, she advocated a “discovery” model of truth over a traditional “instructional” model.[9]
  • Christa McAuliffe would have been the first teacher in space. Tragically, McAuliffe and six other crewmembers were killed in the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.[9]
  • Jaime Escalante (1930–2010) is one of the most famous teachers in American history. Born in Bolivia, he immigrated to America and became a teacher at Garfield High School in Los Angeles. Immortalized in the film Stand and Deliver (1988), he worked to teach disadvantaged students algebra and eventually calculus.[9]
  • Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington D.C. public school system, created both admiration and controversy when she argued for ending tenure for teachers—or at least offering options where teachers can trade tenure for higher pay.[9]
  • Clara Barton (1831–1912) is best known for founding the American Red Cross, but she was also a respected teacher. She even opened a free public school in New Jersey at a time when there were almost none in the area.[9]
  • One of the greatest music teachers in history was Franz Liszt, the Hungarian composer. He had numerous students, and while he was a difficult teacher to please, many of his students became famous.[9]
  • Beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867–1957) was a teacher. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse near De Smet, South Dakota. The school was about 12 miles away from the town where she lived, and the harsh South Dakota snowstorms made traveling back and forth extremely difficult.[9]
  • Teachers have heard it all
  • Teachers note that kids dish on their parents’ secrets all the time, including money problems, religion, politics, and even their dad’s vasectomy.[7]
  • In colonial times and into the early decades of the 19th century, most teachers were men. From the 1820s to 1830s, as more public schools (called Common Schools) were built and more men were siphoned off by more prestigious professions, women began to take over the schoolroom. The feminization of teaching not only change how society perceived women, but how women perceived themselves.[6]
  • The Littleton School Committee in Massachusetts noted in 1849 that compared to men, women were more effective teachers and “at one third of the price” of male teachers.[6]
References

1 Allegretto, Sylvia A., Sean P. Corcoran, and Lawrence Mishel. “The Teaching Penalty: Teacher Pay Losing Ground.” Economic Policy Institute. 2008. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

2Fast Facts: Teacher Trends.” Institute of Education Sciences. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

3 Jacob, Mark and Stephan Benzkofer. “10 Things You Might Not Know about Teachers.” Chicago Tribune. August 28, 2011. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

4 Moulthrop, Daniel, Ninive Clements Calegari, and Dave Eggers. Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers. New York, NY: The New Press, 2006.

5National Teacher Appreciated Week 2010: History, Traditions, and How to Participate.” Huffington Post. Updated May, 25, 2011. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

6Only a Teacher: Teaching Timeline.” PBS. 2014. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

7 Samuel, Neena. “13+ Things Your Child’s Teacher Won’t Tell You.” Reader’s Digest. 2014. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

8 Strauss, Valerie. “How Much Teachers Get Paid—State by State.” Washington Post. December 15, 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

9Teaching through the Ages: Pictures of Famous Educators.” Discovery. 2014. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

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