Teacher Salary Stories: A Michigan Instructional Coach Earning $78,000 in 2024

In our series Teacher Salary Stories, We Are Teachers readers share how they’re making it work—or not—on a teacher’s salary. The goal is to take an honest look at teacher pay in the United States and around the world—what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change if we want to stem the flow of educators leaving the profession and recruit new teachers to the field.

In today’s Teacher Salary Story, a Michigan instructional coach shares her 17-year financial journey, from a $31,000 starting salary to $78,000 now, through roles that included standard step increases, extra duties for a stipend, and a bump for her master’s degree. Despite a master’s degree funded by loans, her and her husband’s combined efforts help them manage a net worth of $400,000 in a region where the cost of living is rising sharply. While she no longer spends much on classroom supplies, her transition from a classroom teacher to a coaching role reflects a significant change in job satisfaction and financial stability, highlighting the complexities of educator pay and career pathways in an expensive living area.

Where do you live?

Traverse City, Michigan.

What is your job title?

Building Instructional/Behavioral Coach.

What is your annual salary?


What is your level of education?

Master’s degree.

How did you pay for your education?

I took out loans.

How long have you been teaching? Is this your first career?

17 years. Yes, this is my first career.

What was your starting salary as a teacher?


Tell us about your income progression (e.g., have you received standard step increases, taken on extra duties, gotten an advanced degree, or switched roles?).

Standard step increases, some extra duties for a stipend (science committee), tiny bump when I got my master’s degree 12 years ago.

How much is one paycheck, after taxes, and how often are you paid?

$1,600, biweekly.

What is your approximate net worth including savings, investments, retirement, and other assets?


How many people live in your household? Are you the only earner?

Two. No, my husband works in construction management.

What are your approximate monthly expenses (e.g., rent/mortgage, car payment or other loans, childcare, food, entertainment, phone/Internet/utilities, other subscriptions)? 

$1,500 mortgage.

$600 car, credit cards, insurance.

$400 utilities/subscriptions.

Do you receive a school- or PTA-provided budget for classroom supplies? If so, how much?

No, not as a coach, but when I was a classroom teacher I received about $200/year per classroom.

How much of your own money do you spend on your classroom every year?

Less than $100 (I teach one section of math).

What kinds of things do you buy when you treat yourself?

Clothes, shoes, vacations/experiences.

What expense would you take on if you suddenly got an extra $1,000 per paycheck?

I’d invest it.

How does your district handle retirement? Will you receive a pension?

I’ll receive a pension when I retire, and I have a 403b investment plan as well. New teachers in Michigan no longer get into the pension in our retirement program, so I’m lucky that I’ve been teaching so long.

Do you have any secondary sources of income, like a side hustle or another job?

Yes, investing and I run a small pet food and treat company myself.

How satisfied are you with your teaching salary on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very satisfied and 1 being not at all satisfied? Please explain.

10, now that I am a coach and not a teacher. This job title may not last too long, but I’m grateful for the break and whatever time I have to do it! When I was a classroom teacher, I was a 5.

Has your current and/or future salary impacted your decision-making around other major life choices (e.g., where you live, whether you rent/own, whether or not to have kids, etc.)? Please explain.

Somewhat. My husband and I never had children because they’re so expensive, and my job around them was enough (for me). The burnout is real, and I don’t feel like I’d have the bandwidth for my own kids after a day of teaching.

Do you plan to stay in education?

I do, but I do not wish to return to the classroom, ever. When my coaching responsibility ends, I will likely find something else in the field.

Do you have any other thoughts about teacher pay that you’d like to share?

I live in a very desirable and fairly expensive area (costs of living are rising dramatically). Beginning teacher (and even veteran teacher) pay is not even enough to cover rent here. If I wasn’t married, I’d have to move in with family. One of the questions in my district’s job interview process is “Where will you live?” I feel lucky not to have a lot of debt and to live pretty well below my means, but it took me until I was over 40 to feel financially stable.

Are you interested in participating in our Teacher Salary Stories project? Fill out the Google Form here. If we choose your story for publication, we will notify you and send you a $150 gift card. All responses will be published anonymously.

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