NC teacher moves abroad to support family and pay off student loan debt

In today’s Soapbox, teacher Justin Gee tells the story of how he and his wife made the difficult decision to pack up their family and move to Singapore, because 80+ hour work weeks were still not enough to pay off his college debt and support his family.

This year my wife, son and I decided to pack our bags and moved to Singapore in order for me to work for an American international school. The move was bittersweet – leaving a school which has been setting trends in NC and around the world with its leadership model. Luckily for me, my principal was very supportive to seek and discover a better life abroad. However, my new reality began to set, and I soon realized how sad it was for me to leave my students, knowing they would not be able to say hi in passing nor have the opportunity to visit me. To know that I no longer would be a member of their community and in turn become part of the rotating door of exiting teachers. To know I had to leave my friends and family in life in order to pursuit a chance to be respected, recognized and probably compensated for what I am truly worth. When I decided to return to university in 2003 to become a teacher, I did not know these hardships would lie ahead of me.

Read Justin’s story and contribute your own at Your Soapbox.


  1. GOP Rules

    December 6, 2013 at 10:26 am

    As if student loan debt burden struggles are limited to teachers. There are plenty of college students that come out with debt that have just as many struggles to pay off.

  2. Alan

    December 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    And yet again GOP Rules entirely misses the point…

  3. GOP Rules

    December 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    No Alan, I get the point. Teachers are not the only ones in the same boat, and for your information I come from a long line of teachers in my family (mother, aunt, uncle, grandfather, great aunt, soon to be my wife…) so I certainly respect the profession. But, when you compare the starting pay of teachers on a 10 month scale say to the starting salary with no experience in my profession, or many other professions then they are not far off base. When you add in the rich government benefit package, you then come out ahead.

    Oh, and this dude in the post is in the minority by a long, long, long shot, the most recent teacher turnover rate shows teachers leave to…..become teachers or other school related jobs elsewhere in the state.

  4. ML

    December 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    GOP – Saying that everyone suffers is not a solution but a problem, so how do you suggest we ease the burdens of student loan debt on our young workforce including teachers?

  5. wncgirl

    December 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    GOP-teachers pay does not rise like pay in the pvt. sector. A teacher with a MS degree will make a beginning salary of under34K. If they strated teaching 8 years ago they now make 35k. My Republican controlled county just hired a new 28 yr. old county employee with a MA in public administration and no experience for 100k… My brother makes 142K for Duke Energy with only a BA degree. I could go on and on, but I know closed minds never open.

  6. Alan

    December 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    GOP Rules,

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with your assertion that starting salaries for other professions are comparable with that of teachers, that’s wildly inaccurate. Furthernmore, “When you add in the rich government benefit package, you then come out ahead”. You cannot, possibly, be serious? What rich government benefit package? My wife works in education, and I can assure you the benefit package is anything but attractive.

  7. GOP Rules

    December 6, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Well Alan/ML,
    When your “wife” is able to retire in what 20 years….get excellent pension benefits, and healthcare paid by me….and does not consider that head and shoulders above most private business that seems a bit unappreciated.

    and wnc, maybe you need to survey smaller businesses…you know the majority of private businesses are smaller and not able to pay the same rich benefits like we do to government employees. Or maybe your teacher friend needs to find a company willing to pay her $100k plus if she is marketable in that manner.

  8. dcw

    December 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    NC is ranked at the bottom of teacher pay in the nation, and with comments like these we are promising to stay there. Are we proud of this? Teaching is no longer a profession in NC. They should be called ” student attendents” so our state and local leaders can feel good about replacing them with uncertified baby sitters. I pay taxes and personally support our local school. I just wish I could divert these taxes from the parasites in Raleigh to the teachers in this state.

  9. Alan

    December 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    GOP Rules,

    Your lack of real world experience shines through in just about every comment you post here. Excellent pension benefits? Healthcare paid by you? It’s no wonder your comments aren’t taken seriously. Perhaps once your internship is over and you have a real job with real responsibilities, you’ll be a little wiser…

    PS. My “wife” says Hi…

  10. GOP Rules

    December 8, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Alan/ML/Policy Watch Intern using multiple names,

    I have lived in the real world, worked in the real world, paid taxes in the real world, and seen more government employees on very good pensions for many many years. Now…..in my real world where I work for a private company (and not Civitas, just because you work for Policy Watch and mega post all the time does not mean we all work for those types of organizations), we do not have a pension, we do not have any healthcare benefit after retirement, we have to fund our own 401k….oh and just for your information I do not make as much as a school employee with a similar job description (the Rhino times publishes government job salaries each year you know and there is other public information on that if you wish to reasearch)…..and I do not get to have about 2-3 months off each year with a full 8 week vacation in summer!

    So…….it is actually most of the comments on this board with the “woe is me” attitude…. when school teachers make a base of about $38,000 when you take out all the vacations and holidays they get…..then add in all the rich government perks that you(?) and I pay….the comments are quite silly to tell the truth and shine the light on the ignorance about the real world…….now liberal world maybe that is a different reality you are in.

  11. GOP Rules

    December 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I agree, we do need to increase pay for teachers. But we need to do so in conjunction with (as Alan/ML will agree) real world realities. We in NC have a long way to go to make up for the hundred plus years of Democrat neglect to get up to a middle standard of pay…see the attachment below where the liberal controlled legislature allowed 15.7% DECREASES to pay over that time (bet there was not a liberal uproar over that! but now we are suddenly in steep decline? please!). But we do need to take into account the truth that state employees as a whole have a fairly rich package of perks that we pay upon retirement, and that the schools have a lot of positives in their favor when you figure benefits like time off with kids and such.


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