TEACHERS HAVE IT EASY: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers

Why are teachers paid so poorly? Why can’t they afford to buy homes or raise families in the communities where they teach? Why do they need to work two or more jobs to survive, and what effect does this have on our students?

Dave Eggers, acclaimed author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the son and brother of teachers, and co-founder of writing centers in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, joins forces with two former teachers, fellow 826 Valencia co-founder Ninive Clements Calegari and journalist/teacher Daniel Moulthrop to examine a national scandal that affects us all.

In the tradition and history of Studs Terkel, teachers reflect on the profession, their status, and the hardships they face in and outside of the classroom. “Teaching would be the greatest job in the world – if money didn’t matter,” explains one teacher. “I told the girl I was dating I wouldn’t mind teaching and she said, ‘Don’t waste your talent on that,'” says another.

Interweaving these voices from across the country with eye-opening facts and figures, Eggers, Calegari, and Moulthrop debunk the myth that our nation’s educators enjoy short workdays and long summer vacations. The book exposes the harsh realities of public school teaching and underscores the problem of recruitment and retention in a profession that asks much of our educators, with little in return. The authors also provide real-life examples of schools across the country that have successfully implemented reform, highlighting how these inspiring changes have improved the working lives of teachers.

Both an oral history and an accessibly written analysis of the problems teachers face and what we can do to solve them, TEACHERS HAVE IT EASY is a passionate and compelling call to action. It will start a desperately needed national conversation about transforming the ways in which communities view their teachers, and how teachers view themselves.


Before beginning his career in journalism, Daniel Moulthrop taught English for four years at San Lorenzo High School, near Oakland, California. Beyond his classroom teaching, he also worked as Literacy Coordinator, directing staff development and supporting the teaching of reading across disciplines, and he served as adviser to the student literary magazine. Before working at San Lorenzo High School, he taught in the adult education program at the San Francisco county jail. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, and a teaching credential from the Bay Area Teachers Center.

Ninive Clements Calegari is a veteran teacher and the founding executive director for 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing center in San Francisco’s Mission District. Named for its location, 826 Valencia has fruitfully offered thousands of Bay Area students free opportunities to improve their writing in a variety of activities, including workshops, field trips, after-school tutoring, and student publications. Calegari was instrumental in creating the educational programs and ensuring the center’s financial viability. Before joining 826 Valencia, Ninive taught in Mexico, where she lived with her extended family. While at Leadership High School, a start up charter school in San Francisco, she served on the Board of Directors.

She has been the recipient of an NEH Fellowship, the William Coe Award for study at Stanford and the Andrew Mellon Fellowship. She holds a Masters in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard School of Education.

Dave Eggers grew up close to Chicago and attended the University of Illinois. He is the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, and How We Are Hungry. In 1998, he founded McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house located in San Francisco that publishes books, a quarterly literary journal, The Believer, and a daily humor website. In 2002, Eggers opened 826 Valencia. With the help of his workshop students, Eggers edits a collection of fiction, essays, and journalism called The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He has recently written introductions to new editions of books by Edward Wallant, John Cheever, and Mark Twain, and is currently working on the biography of Valentino Ashak Deng, a refugee from the Sudan now living in Atlanta. Excerpts from this book have appeared in The Believer. A serial novel about electoral politics appeared in Salon.