ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A teacher is getting a lot of attention after sharing a TikTok video in which she reveals to her students that she’s quitting her job.
Now, she’s hoping her message will inspire the school district to change how teachers are paid.
Mahalia Aponte recently moved to New Mexico and applied for a job at Garfield Middle School in Albuquerque. She started teaching eighth grade social studies a couple of months into the school year after finally getting her level two license with the New Mexico Public Education Department.
“I started working there, fell in love with the position, was having a great time with the kids,” Aponte said. “I got my very first paycheck and immediately was concerned.”
As Aponte explains, the Albuquerque Public Schools district prorated her annual salary from $51,000 to around $34,500, because she didn’t start at the beginning of the year. Still, Aponte figured she would have the option to receive bigger checks over the nine-month school year, instead of smaller checks spread out over a 12-month pay schedule — an option she’s had at other school districts she’s worked in. (Aponte works full-time at a different job during the summer months.)
However, Aponte says no one at APS clarified that the district only operates on a 12-month pay schedule, despite allegedly reaching out to ask “over and over again.” It wasn’t until she had already started working that she learned of the 12-month pay schedule. And because her prorated salary was spread out over the full year, Aponte says she was left with a monthly income of only $400 more than her rent.
“I feel like this happens to so many teachers,” Aponte said. “It’s happening too often and we’re not saying anything about it.”
In a TikTok video that’s now gone viral, Aponte announced to her class that she would not be returning because she couldn’t afford to live on her salary.
“I was very honest with them and explained to them the situation,” she said in the video.
She later posted a second video further discussing what happened.
“I can’t run myself ragged working here all day and then working my second job all night just to make ends meet, every single day Monday through Friday, plus working on the weekends,” Aponte said. “I don’t have any time for myself. I don’t even have time to grade papers outside of class.”
Aponte hopes being vocal about her experience can help educate other teachers new to the district, so they can better prepare for the pay. She also hopes it can maybe even change the district itself, giving teachers the option of how they’re paid.
“It’s astronomical the amount of teachers who are in the exact same position as me or worse,” Aponte said, citing comments from other educators who responded to her TikTok video.
In the meantime, Aponte says she’s going to work full-time as a bartender and server, and do some tutoring on the side. She says she will reevaluate a future at APS before the start of the school year.
APS was not available to comment on Aponte’s video during the district’s winter break.