Heather St. Louis: Kindergarten Teacher, Springfield

I was already an adult with a career when I stumbled upon my true calling: teaching is my passion and there isn’t anything I would rather do.

I teach kindergarten at Riverbend Elementary in Springfield. We have a large school and, unfortunately, some of the students have a turbulent home life. Their families love them, of course, but some parents might have two jobs or need to work the nightshift to stay afloat. Therefore, we see a lot of behavioral issues at our school.

With about 25 kindergartners to corral, it’s a very challenging job, but I love it. However, the discussions I’m hearing about possibly cutting our PERS retirement benefits have me very concerned. I’m satisfied with my compensation, but that’s because PERS is an important component of the overall package.

My husband and I do save for retirement, but raising a child is expensive and we can’t afford to sock away as much as we would like. Therefore, PERS is vital for our family.

I think that if retirement benefits were cut, we would absolutely lose teachers and high turnover would become the norm. I grew up in Oregon and would like to stay in Oregon, but if another school was offering a better package, I would consider moving.   

In kindergarten, we talk a lot about using empathy. I would like to ask all politicians talking about cutting our retirements to please put themselves in our shoes. We’ve worked very hard and will continue to do so. Teachers definitely deserve the retirement benefits that were promised.