Teachers across Berkeley take on second jobs to make ends meet


With the cost of living steadily increasing throughout the country, many teachers rely on second jobs during summer break to make ends meet. According to federal data from the 2020-21 school year, 16.8 percent of public school teachers work second jobs outside of the school system in addition to teaching. Younger teachers and those new to the profession are even more likely to work second jobs.

Jill Moniz, a teacher at Cragmont Elementary, worked at the San Francisco Zoo’s summer camp program, working with kids during her summer breaks. “When I was working at the San Francisco Zoo, it definitely started as a very critical financial reason,” Moniz said. “I kept doing it because the money was helpful, but mostly it was just a really lovely place to be.”

After about 11 summers of working at the zoo, Moniz eventually moved on, noting that as she worked longer in Berkeley Unified School District, her salary allowed her more flexibility. This summer, though, Moniz picked up another short-term job after being given the opportunity.

Wyn Skeels, BUSD’s Career Technical Education Program Manager, explained how newer teachers are especially likely to have second jobs. “I know that many teachers, especially those who are newer to the profession, need to take on summer jobs and find other ways to supplement their incomes over the school year because of low starting salaries,” Skeels said.

Skeels also commented on its potential impact on students. “Many promising educators leave the profession, and we have an acute shortage of highly qualified, experienced teachers nationwide.  The lack of professional development time and shortage of qualified teachers have a very clear impact on student academic performance,” said Skeels.

Some teachers also work second jobs year-round, not just in the summertime. Yesenia Rodriguez, a Universal Ninth Grade English teacher, works as a bar manager at a pizzeria in Berkeley all year round. Rodriguez shared that she usually worked three to four shifts per week, handling responsibilities such as training new employees or ordering and managing inventory.

“Instead of having afternoons off to recoup from the day, I just go straight to my second job,” Rodriguez said. “Any energy I have left is allocated to the upkeep of my personal life. I make an effort to utilize every minute I have on school campus to prepare my lessons, materials, correspondence, and student needs.” 

For teachers, summer breaks can be essential to lesson planning and other preparation for the following school year. According to Rodriguez, not having time to decompress from the school year can be challenging. 

“Teachers need a grace period between the school year and summer break to decompress and process all the stuff we put off to get through the school year,” said Rodriguez. “By the time we feel some equilibrium mentally, emotionally, and physically, we’re either off to summer school or, as in my case, our summer jobs.” 

Rodriguez also expressed that the high cost of living in the Bay Area makes it unrealistic for teachers to be able to live here with their current salaries. Without two incomes, Rodriguez says, it’s nearly impossible.

While alternative careers may pay better, Rodriguez said teaching was much more rewarding to her in the long term.

“I love working with students. I love being able to help them grow as thinkers and support their creativity. There’s meaning here. There’s purpose. And in the big picture that is my life, I want to make an impact no matter how small it may seem that lasts past my lifetime,” said Rodriguez.