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Teachers a prime example of doing more with less
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Oakwood Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Sandy Akins works with student Nayiomi Henry. - photo by Tom Reed

Sandy Akins has been teaching in Hall County for almost two decades.

She’s seen educational changes stemming from standards switches, principal turnover and even recessions.

Over the last few years, Akins, along with the entire teaching community, has dealt with furloughs, bigger class sizes, pay freezes and the fear of losing a job.

But even as the state is undergoing a shift in how it educates its students, teachers are expected to produce — like every other employee — while being given less.

“We make less now than we made five years ago — a lot less — because of the furloughs,” Akins said.

Akins said one of the most identifiable issues stemming from the recession for teachers is one most people do not take into account: classroom supplies.

She said the average teacher is likely to spend between $500 and $1,000 a year on class supplies, ranging from pencils to paper to books.

“It’s just simple little things that add up,” Akins said.

The system, up until 2007, gave teachers $100 a year for supplies. That, she said, is no longer provided.

“That’s totally gone,” said Akins. “You’re not allowed to order any of that that’s paid for by the school anymore.

Teachers buy pretty much everything you see in the classroom.”

And growing class sizes — Akins said five years ago she had fewer than 20 students in her classroom, compared to nearly 30 now — just add to those expenses.

“(Teachers) know that they’re going to have those students that come in and not have those school supplies,” she said. “It’s all about the kids and it’s all about them being successful and for you to have the things to meet their needs.”

But it’s not about her paycheck, she said, or how much she spends on supplies per year. If she didn’t want to teach, she wouldn’t. Most teachers, she said, share that sentiment.

“Being a teacher is all about loving children and education and sharing that,” said Akins. “The joy of teaching is true love. It’s not so much about the paycheck, but watching children grow and learn. It’s a true calling.”

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