Latinx Career Diaries: What It’s Really Like to Be a Pre-K Teacher

Art by Alan López for Remezcla

As of 2016, Latinos make up 16.8 percent – 26.8 million – of the workforce in the United States. While there are plenty of statistics about the industries (tech, legal, STEM, and many more) where our communities are sorely underrepresented and how the wage gap disproportionately affects Latinas (and other women of color), we wanted to learn more about what it’s like to pursue your career goals as a Latino today.

That’s why we’re launching Latinx Career Diaries. Twice a month, we’ll offer you a peek into what it’s like to work a certain job as a Latino. The goal is to give you an idea of what people with your similar experiences earn, help you pick up some negotiation tactics, and provide guidance if you’re embarking on your career.

Submit a questionnaire here, and check out more Latinx Career Diaries here.

These responses have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Age: 33

Background: Mexican and Filipino

Preferred Pronoun: She

Job Title: Lead teacher for the preschool aged class

Years at Current Job: 2

Location: Oakland, California

Years of Experience: 8

Salary: $23 an hour. I’m not paid what I’m worth.

Negotiation Process: It was a little tough, but I aimed high and we met somewhere in between.

Benefits: Medical, dental, vision, 401k

Cost of living in my city based on my salary: I can barely afford the cost of living. Just enough to basically survive.

How I Broke In: I worked with kids in college at SF State. I moved home to San Diego, and I watched how my sister advocated hard for my nephew, who is autistic, and how much time and patience you need to have with kids with learning delays and behavioral delays, and how important early intervention was for my nephew and is for kids. I decided I wanted to advocate for kids and families and early intervention and work with young children.

Responsibilities: Everything there is to running a classroom, kids, parents, co-teachers, curriculum, and paper work.

What I Like Most/Least: I like watching the kids learn and grow during their time in my class. What I like least is my bosses and the administration. They do not support the teachers at all. And how people view me as a babysitter or daycare worker. I’m a teacher. I teach kids skills to help them succeed in a school environment.

Diversity: Thankfully, in the Bay Area, my workplace is very diverse and each class celebrates diversity as much as possible – unlike San Diego, where I was the only teacher of color there.

Growth Potential: Not at this center, but maybe another school.

What I Wish I Knew Before: How low the pay is, how people don’t respect my work, how it’s all about making the parents happy and not everyone has the child’s best interest and that I would have to be the child’s biggest and only advocate. It is heartbreaking to watch a child’s parents be neglectful and disinterested in their child.

Final Thoughts: You can’t go into the education field to make money. You have to go into it because it’s something you’re passionate about and know that you will have to stand up for yourself, your co-teachers, your students. Don’t back down; be the voice for those who need you, too.