Teacher Salary Stories: A Northern Virginia Librarian Earning $95,100 in 2024

“People lament the difficulty schools face in hiring and retaining teachers, yet balk at the notion of higher taxes needed to pay their salaries.”

Quote about Northern Virginia librarian Teacher Salary Story

In our new series Teacher Salary Stories, We Are Teachers readers share how they’re making it work—or not—on a teacher’s salary. The goal is to take an honest look at teacher pay in the United States and around the world—what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change if we want to stem the flow of educators leaving the profession and recruit new teachers to the field.

In today’s Teacher Salary Story, an elementary school librarian from northern Virginia shares her 18-year financial journey, from a $45,739 starting salary to $95,100 now, through roles like long-term subbing and transitioning to the library. Despite fluctuating salaries, step increases, and additional education, her master’s degree—partly funded by her parents and scholarships—helps her and her higher-earning husband manage the high cost of living on a net worth of $1,600,000. While she benefits from generous library resources and spends minimally on supplies, she’s concerned about unpredictable salary changes and the lack of rewards for extra duties, underscoring the balance between educator dedication and financial challenges.

Where do you live?

Northern Virginia.

What is your job title?

Elementary school librarian.

What is your annual salary?


What is your highest level of education?


Master’s degree.

How did you pay for your education?

My parents paid for my bachelor’s, and I had some scholarships as well. I was fortunate that they split the cost of my master’s degree with me so I didn’t have to foot the entire bill myself.

How long have you been teaching? Is this your first career?

It’s my first and only career. This is year 18 for me.

What was your starting salary as a teacher?


Tell us about your income progression (e.g., have you received standard step increases, taken on extra duties, gotten an advanced degree, or switched roles?).

I graduated at a time when there weren’t a lot of openings in my area, so I moved around a lot, doing a lot of long-term subbing assignments, until I found something permanent. My salary varied a lot those years depending on the exact position I was in. I switched from being a classroom teacher to the library after four years. I’ve been in my current district for 11 years. Some years, we all receive a step increase and a raise, and some years, we don’t. I also completed 30 additional credits above my master’s a few years ago for an additional increase.

How much is one paycheck, after taxes, and how often are you paid?

$4,818.40. The district pays us once per month, from August through June.

What is your approximate net worth including savings, investments, retirement, and other assets?


How many people live in your household? Are you the only earner?

Right now, it’s just me and my husband. He makes about twice what I make.

What are your approximate monthly expenses (e.g., rent/mortgage, car payment or other loans, childcare, food, entertainment, phone/Internet/utilities, other subscriptions)? 

Mortgage: $4,900

Car payment: $400

My husband’s student loan: $600

Food: $600

Entertainment: $1,000

Phone/Internet/utilities: $600

We also put about $1,800 per month toward the various investment accounts we have in addition to our pensions/401k/403b.

Do you receive a school- or PTA-provided budget for classroom supplies? If so, how much?

The district I work for gives a generous allocation each year for me to order new books for the library. The PTA gives us $200 per year for supplies, and the school orders both general supplies and supplies for each team. I don’t know what the specific budget is for that. I’m also extremely fortunate to have profitable book fairs each year that fund additional supplies, books, furnishings, and other items I need for the library.

How much of your own money do you spend on your classroom every year?

$100 to $200.

What kinds of things do you buy when you treat yourself?

A nice meal out with my husband, regular mani-pedis, and cute teacher tees/shoes/clothes.

What expense would you take on if you suddenly got an extra $1,000 per paycheck?

Honestly, I’d probably either put it into our short-term savings or add it to what goes into my 403b or our investments. We live in a very expensive area and I’m not counting on my pension alone to be enough to live on when we retire.

How does your district handle retirement? Will you receive a pension?

If I retire from where I currently work, I’ll get two pensions—one from the state and one from the district.

Do you have any secondary sources of income, like a side hustle or another job?


How satisfied are you with your teaching salary on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very satisfied and 1 being not at all satisfied? Please explain.

6 or 7. Next year I should be making six figures for the first time, which is nice, but it’s taken a long time to get to this point. It’s also frustrating to not be able to count on a step increase and/or a raise each year. There also don’t seem to be many incentives to be exceptional or take on extra duties. For example, I was my school’s teacher of the year a few years back and got nothing tangible in return. A stipend position I had for a few years came out to no extra money at all once taxes were taken out.

Has your current and/or future salary impacted your decision-making around other major life choices (e.g., where you live, whether you rent/own, whether or not to have kids, etc.)? Please explain.

I’m fortunate that between the two of us, my husband and I make enough to live where we do. If it were just me, owning a home and living by myself would be very difficult, if not impossible. I know there are many, many people who work in my district but live in a neighboring county because it’s so expensive to live here.

Do you plan to stay in education?

For now, yes. At the end of the day, I really do love what I do and love my school, the students and their families, and my admin and coworkers. I do find myself feeling more and more these days that it’s hard to imagine myself doing this forever.

Do you have any other thoughts about teacher pay that you’d like to share?

I get really angry when I hear people talk about how awful it is that schools have so much trouble hiring and retaining teachers in recent years and also complain about their taxes being raised. You can’t have it both ways: Either understand that the money to retain dedicated, qualified teachers and staff has to come from somewhere, or don’t act surprised when schools are facing staffing shortages.

Are you interested in participating in our Teacher Salary Stories project? Fill out the Google Form here. If we choose your story for publication, we will notify you and send you a $150 gift card. All responses will be published anonymously.

See what this Northern Virginia librarian earns and how her finances impact her life in our latest Teacher Salary Story.