EdSurge Reporter Wins Top Prize for Journalism About Low Teacher Pay

Teaching and Learning

EdSurge Reporter Wins Top Prize for Journalism About Low Teacher Pay

Judges described Emily Tate Sullivan's reporting as “really eye-opening.”

By Rebecca Koenig     Jun 5, 2023

EdSurge Reporter Wins Top Prize for Journalism About Low Teacher Pay
The ceremony for the 2022 National Awards for Education Reporting.

EdSurge senior reporter Emily Tate Sullivan won a top journalism prize this month for her work documenting the chronic, national problem of low teacher pay in the United States.

The Education Writers Association named Tate Sullivan the winner of a 2022 National Award for Education Reporting in the beat reporting category. The honor recognizes a collection of five stories she reported and wrote last year about the financial difficulty many educators face, the strategies they use to make ends meet, and possible solutions for improving compensation for teachers.

“In nearly every interaction I had with a teacher, including interviews for unrelated stories, they would tell me before hanging up how they were fed up and thinking of leaving, that conditions in their school community had deteriorated, and that the compensation for what was asked of them had become more insulting than they could bear,” Tate Sullivan wrote in her award submission letter. “At the same time, school districts were reporting thousands of unfilled staff openings. As a nation, we couldn’t afford to lose our teachers. But I wondered, could we afford to keep them?”

Marisa Busch served as the editor for these articles. One of them, “Our Nation’s Teachers Are Hustling to Survive,” was co-published with the investigative magazine Mother Jones. It explores why nearly 1 in 5 American public school teachers have to work a second job outside of the classroom to make ends meet.

Cara at restaurant window
Cara Rothrock, a third grade teacher, works a second job at Polly’s Freeze. Photo by Jon Cherry for EdSurge.

They include third grade teacher Cara Rothrock, who clocks hours at Polly’s Freeze, a roadside restaurant in Indiana. And middle school band teacher Swati Linder, who also sells real estate in South Carolina (she has since left teaching altogether). And Marcus Blankenship, a sixth grade history teacher in North Carolina who drives for the rideshare app Lyft.

The judges called the story “really eye-opening,” noting that it “plowed new ground on a problem education reporters have long heard about and did so in a way that was a compelling read, with good stats backing up really powerful narratives from those teaching in our classrooms — and also waiting tables, driving Ubers, etc.”

The Education Writers Association is a professional association for journalists. Newsrooms submitted more than 400 entries to the 2022 National Awards for Education Reporting. The competition was independently judged by 118 current and former editors and reporters.

This is the second time Tate Sullivan has taken home a National Award for Education Reporting. She won an award for feature writing for her 2020 story about an Ohio preschool that helps the youngest victims of the opioid crisis.

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