COLUMN: When teachers win, everyone wins


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

I wonder how many students are enrolled at Eastern that intend to one day become a teacher? As education becomes more democratic, and the job market more competitive, more and more professions are not requiring a college degree.

Teaching, however, is not such a profession. Plain and simple, prospective educators and specialized support staff need certifications and credentials in order to find work teaching and working at accredited institutions.

The inspirational field of education is not one that people go into to become wealthy. Most people who eventually become teachers endure the rigor of higher education, accreditation, and certification to make a difference in students’ lives.

From what I have seen, most of my classmates in English MA program that are already educators elsewhere are not simply enduring the rigor of graduate school, they are exceedingly bright and hard-working individuals.

They are as talented and diligent as anyone I have encountered in my professional life, and I have been working in higher education for nearly 15 years.

Representing 450 employees, the EIU-UPI is preparing to strike. With every battle professional educators need to fight to maintain fair wages, the field of educating young people is becoming less appealing to future generations of would-be teachers.

There are many complicated reasons people feel that they cannot trust various American institutions. Institutional rot is a sad reality in the world after the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

From federal entities such as the Center for Disease Control, to local police, and all areas of public education, we see signs of concerned constituents, citizens, employees, and administrators entangled in a mess of economic disputes over how institutions spend their money. Because of this, we trust institutions less and are becoming cynical and distrustful.

A professor at Eastern told me recently that “in higher education, what the institution funds is what the institution values.” For context, we were discussing service-learning opportunities, but even out of context, this sentiment can be applied broadly.

In a clip I saw on TikTok, comedian Jim Gaffigan quips about “favorite billionaire astronauts” and remarks on the absurdity that there is more than one to choose from. Then he says something along the lines of: “are we sure they’re paying their taxes? I know some teachers that need supplies.”

This is a tricky situation: on the one hand, there is a teacher shortage plaguing our nation, and public educational institutions are not attracting enough people to staff our schools. 

On the other hand, unionized professional employees exercising their right to strike is a sign of a healthy union culture, which everyone should support. Anyone working in any career, not just teachers, hopes the day does not come when they have to make demands for fair wages along with their other job duties.

Because of the critical role educators play in our society, most everyone innately supports these workers’ right to strike, and values all teachers across the board. Education is not something that our society can take shortcuts with.

We badly need a victory for school employees, which includes competitive salary programs that attract new talent to work in institutions of higher learning. When teachers win, so does everyone else.

Dan Hahn is an English composition/rhetoric graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.