By Mark Ackerman
STERLING, Colorado (CBS4) – This week, teachers from across Colorado are leaving school to collect in the State Capitol to protest a lack of school funding.
In the northeastern corner of the state, 124 miles away, Samantha Fennell teaches the kindergarten of the Ayres Elementary School in Sterling Teachers earning 26 percent below the national average.
"I wanted the small town feeling," said Fennell, who moved from the Front Range to the Eastern Plains.
On the day CBS4 attended, she taught her 21
"I love having children "Grown-ups can sometimes be a bit doubtful."
After four years teaching in the RE-1 Valley School District, earned Fennell $ 31,229 and has not had any salary since she was hired received an increase.
"It was kind of daunting in the first two years," she said, "it was hard to go on."
Teachers generally do not receive promotions. Instead, they gradually build their salaries, step by step.
A beginner teacher in the RE-1 Valley School District in Sterling makes $ 29,793. After 10 steps of about $ 700 each she can count on $ 36,256. In most school districts, one step equals one year. But, Fennell has been imprisoned in step 3 since she started.
"The dream would be to have children and raise them here in Sterling, where I love to teach," she said. I just can not afford it, I can not afford it. "
With student loans totaling about $ 25,000, even in pounds sterling, it's hard to get it going.
"Our living expenses are comparable to the Front Range." I can not afford to buy a house or to invest in my community, "she said.
Fennell takes on additional responsibilities to earn more money, including tutoring and summer school. She says some teachers in Sterling are waiting for tables after work or moonlighting as caretakers.
Jan DeLay says something has to change.
"I go to Home Depot and one of my math teachers helps me on a Saturday," she said. "He's there because he works there."
The district has entered a four-day week to reduce the cost of buses and facilities. The low salaries also lead to teacher turnover and vacancies. Long-term submarines without an apprenticeship are used to plug holes when a more qualified teacher can not be found. Sterling voters shot off tax increases two years in a row.
"The injustice of compensation for these teachers is simply wrong," she said. "The quality of a child's education in the state of Colorado should not depend on where they live."
Yet, despite the cuts, RE-1 Valley is making progress in education at the Colorado Department of Education. In a city where many parents do not have a college degree, children go to college and succeed.
Instead of protesting with colleagues from across the state on Friday at the Capitol, the teachers in Sterling leave the school and protest locally in the Logan County courthouse. They plan to circulate petitions calling on citizens to take a nationwide initiative to raise taxes on school funding.
Lee Fetters, who teaches English to middle school teachers, directs the effort.
"I want you to know that this is not us against them," said Fetters. "We're in Colorado, we're all together."
Fennell said she wants her contribution appreciated.
"I take my job very seriously," said Fennell. "It's a kick in the face when it's not as important as another's job."
Despite paying her salary, she spends between $ 500 and $ 800 a year on school supplies and does everything she can to give her students an edge. 19659006] "It's a big deal to help raise and educate another's children," she said.
Friday night at 10 pm CBS4 takes you to the Boulder Valley School District, which pays teachers the most in Colorado – about twice what Teachers do in Sterling.
Click here to see an interactive map with data on how teachers are paid for where they live.
Mark Ackerman is a special project producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark