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Alachua County teachers turn to tutoring for secondary income

During her first few years in the classroom, third grade teacher Natalie Andrews worked 70 hours a week.

It was the only way she could make ends meet, Andrews, 32, said. About 60 of those hours were dedicated to schoolwork, including the time it took to plan lessons and grade papers. She spent the other 10 hours tutoring students one-on-one.

It was simple: Tutoring made money, she said.

“Teaching is just not the most lucrative in terms of pay, obviously,” she said. “I was single. I didn't have any children. So I was like, ‘I can easily just make some extra money on the side doing [tutoring].’”

Teachers across Alachua County are looking to tutoring — the more individualized and often higher-paying cousin to classroom teaching — for additional income.

Florida ranks No. 48 in the nation among states and the District of Columbia for average teacher pay, according to the National Education Association. Only South Dakota, West Virginia and Mississippi have lower average salaries.

After teaching in Florida for 10 years, seven of which she spent teaching third grade, Andrews moved from Gainesville to Knoxville, Tennessee, to be closer to family.

She still teaches third grade at her new school, Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy. It pays more and takes her master’s degree into account when calculating her salary — something her school in Gainesville never did, she said.

Now that Andrews is in a better financial position, she said, she stopped tutoring.

“I was just exhausted all the time,” she said. “Every time you say yes to something, you have to say no to something else. Tutoring after school, yes, it gave me extra money, but then no, I couldn’t go to the gym or go [out] with a friend.”

More than school hours

A first-year teacher in Alachua County makes $45,717 per year, according to a current job listing. That’s about $16 per hour for a regular elementary school day.

The rate becomes complicated because most teachers don’t work from bell to bell. In fact, most arrive at school early, stay late and work weekends, said University of Florida education professor Caitlin Gallingane.

“Teachers put in so much time that’s not on the contract,” she added.

Teachers being tutors is common, Gallingane said. In the classroom, teachers handle 18 or more students. Those classroom skills, like accommodating to different students’ learning styles, are often transferable to a one-on-one tutoring setting.

Before completing her PhD, Gallingane taught kindergarten in Sumter County and Alachua County. She saw firsthand that teacher pay wasn’t very high.

What she hadn’t realized, she said, was how expensive tutoring was for parents.

When it came time for Gallingane to hire an Algebra tutor for her son, she turned to a teacher friend for advice. The friend, a certified teacher with a master’s degree, charged far more than her daughter, a high school student.

“You're paying for expertise,” Gallingane said.

Caring for students

All three of High Springs Mayor Katherine Weitz’s children turned to their teachers for tutoring when they struggled in school, she said.

Weitz, 57, noticed her son having a hard time in eighth grade at Oak View Middle School, so she encouraged him to reach out to his teacher for help. After about two weeks of free afterschool tutoring, her son understood the concept, she said.

Weitz never paid for outside tutoring — according to her, all the help her children needed was available through teachers and other school resources.

“People don't recognize how much the teachers are invested in all of the kids’ successes,” Weitz said. “It’s so important to them. And they've been honestly the magic for us.”

For Michele Houde, 56, a kindergarten teacher at Irby Elementary School, seeing students grow through tutoring feels rewarding.

Houde has been teaching for 28 years and tutoring since 2009. The students she tutors, like James Hinton, 9, who is home-schooled, meet her either at her home in High Springs or over Zoom.

Houde keeps an assortment of markers, whiteboards and worksheets on shelves adjacent to her dining table, which serves as a makeshift desk for at-home tutoring. She pulled up a chair next to Hinton during their scheduled Wednesday afternoon phonetics and reading lesson, looking over his shoulder as he wrote the letter Q.

In the classroom, she constantly needs to monitor what every student is doing; in tutoring, she can focus on one student and learn their needs, she said.

“When they get to know you, their personalities really light up, and you just share that little bond with them,” she said.

She started tutoring to make extra money for her children’s extracurricular activities, she said. At first, she charged $25 per hour. Today, it’s $40 per hour — an amount that better matches other tutors’ rates, she said.

Although Houde likes tutoring, her days are long, she said. Her day starts at 5 a.m., and often she’s not done tutoring until 7 p.m.

“I love it. I wouldn't want to do any other job as a second job,” Houde said. “But if I could make ends meet in our family, then I wouldn't tutor.”

Alissa is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing