ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque teacher is getting a lot of attention after a TikTok video of her telling her class she was quitting, went viral. She’s hoping to inspire changes to how teachers are paid in the district. After a recent move to New Mexico, Mahalia Aponte was quick to apply for a job at Garfield Middle School.
“I started working there, fell in love with the position, was having a great time with the kids,” said Aponte. “I got my very first paycheck and immediately was concerned.”
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The 8th-grade social studies teacher says she started a couple of months into the school year after finally getting her level two license with the New Mexico Public Education Department.
“Because I didn’t start at the beginning of the year, they did prorate my annual pay from $51k to like $34.5k,” said Aponte. “I didn’t get a confirmation saying we changed it in the system, you’re good to go, this is what it’s going to be now, also, this is how our pay scale is set up. I didn’t get any of that.”
Still, she figured she would have the option like other districts she’s worked in where she can get bigger checks over the nine-month school year, rather than the salary spread out over a full calendar year, since she works a different job full-time during the summer months.
However, she says no one at Albuquerque Public Schools clarified that they only operate on a 12-month pay schedule until she had already started working. Because that prorated salary was spread out over the full year, she was left with a monthly income that was only $400 more than her rent.
“I feel like this happens to so many teachers,” said Aponte. “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. She later posted a second video clarifying 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,” said Aponte. “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.
“The comments on there,” said Aponte. “It’s astronomical the amount of teachers who are in the exact same position as me or worse.”
In the meantime, Aponte says she’s going to work full-time as a bartender and server, along with tutoring. She says she will reevaluate a future at APS before the start of the school year. KRQE News 13 reached out to APS but because the district is on winter break, no one was available to comment until next week.