In 2022, I began a long-term documentary survey of elementary schools in the Toledo metro area – both the people (teachers, staff and administrators) as well as the physical spaces these professionals inhabit.
Teachers continue to struggle with what we've sadly come to expect: low salaries (in a profession dominated by women), long hours, few resources, and degraded facilities.
There are currently, 1.7 million elementary school teachers in the United States. According to 2017 Chronicle of Higher Education data, out of 50 majors, elementary educators and early childhood educators are projected to earn the least by mid-career.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought on a fresh set of challenges that have not abated: anger at teachers for "indoctrinating" their kids, vilification of diversity-related teaching (much of which has been going on for many years before Covid), and violence – both physical and emotional, from outside, and within. It's likely no surprise we are now seeing a national hiring crisis in these fields.
The stories these people have are both inspiring and harrowing. It's my purpose to bring about a greater appreciation for the individual sacrifices elementary educators make, and the profession as a whole.
Custodians' Lounge, Woodland Elementary
Denise Dorn, Custodian
Library, Fort Meigs Elementary