Teacher turned actress feels pressure from state budget debates

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Submitted: Mon, 08/04/2014 - 3:20am
Updated: Tue, 11/11/2014 - 6:59pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Surf City native Ashley Mewborn left teaching because she said in North Carolina it just was not a viable career option.

“The week that I left I was working three jobs.”

Mewborn said, as a teacher, trying to make ends meet and pay off her student loans was just too difficult, so she started considering other options. She always told her kids to follow their dreams, now shes taking her own advice and following hers.

“Why am I not doing what I’m telling all these kids to do? Like, if I can’t make a living doing this, I might as well move to the Wilmington area and try and pursue my dreams. So I came here and got started and things were going great. Now all of a sudden theres another wrench thrown in.”

While the future of North Carolina’s film incentives looks brighter, it’s sill up in the air.
But even in the uncertainty, and the possible 7% teacher salary raise, Mewborn says she’ll never go back to teaching.

“The salary is not the only problem,” Mewborn said.
“There’s no way I’d put myself back in that position because I know what the common core is doing to the system and I know all of the struggles that my friends that I have that are still teachers are going through and there’s just no way.”


  • Ashley Bratcher says:

    Wow, I had no idea the controversy that would ensue when I was contacted for this interview. (No, I did not seek the self-promotion I’m accused of.) Initially, I was inclined to deny the interview but was persuaded to share my story because of the fact that I have faced adversity in both professions. It was also in part to let my former students know that I meant what I said, they have the power to take control of their future and live their dreams.

    To set the record straight, I am not a young single woman supporting only myself. I am married and a mother (and have been since before my time teaching). Teaching was not my first career out of college, I chose the profession because I was passionate about it and wanted to make a difference in the lives of my students. While I taught, I did that. It was my mission, and there wasn’t a student in my room who didn’t feel inspired, cared about, and pushed to succeed. Ultimately, what was more important was my family and my own well being. I have a degree that costs me more than my mortgage each month. That’s not a complaint, it’s a fact. My point in stating that I worked 3 jobs when I left was not to ask for your sympathy or “whine,” it was to illuminate an issue that is ridiculous. The people who educate our future deserve to be paid more. (To the person who thought a single woman should be able to support herself on $30k a year… did you know that what I was netting each month in my paycheck was below the poverty line?) I could have literally filed for government assistance had I been single. Rather, I decided it was time to choose another career. I took a job in the Wilmington area for a number of reasons, one of which was the opportunity to pursue my acting career in a smaller market where I could still be near all of my family.

    This interview is clearly an excerpt, a tiny piece of my story. It was a conversation to ask how I feel about the possibility of losing my opportunity to pursue my dream in the state of North Carolina. Legislators have used teacher salaries to fuel debate regarding the film incentives and as someone who has been affected by both, I am entitled to my opinion. When asked why I wouldn’t return to teaching (NOT WHY I LEFT), I mentioned the struggles my former colleagues are facing with the common core. I know the countless hours they are forced to sit through useless training that is in addition to their regular school day of 8+ hours. The training is a spectacle for the administration, not for the benefit of our students. No, thank you.

    Side note: I, too, cringed when I heard the word “like” spew from my nervous mouth in the midst of my interview. Cheers to the viewer who felt it deemed me an unworthy candidate to teach. Seriously? Forgive me.

    As for the happy teacher, good for you. Praise God, there are still happy teachers who can afford to. I couldn’t afford to. Yay, teachers are getting a raise; but how much is it really? “Beginning teachers will see a 14 percent increase over the next two years. Starting salaries go from $30,000 to $32,000 this year with an additional $2,200 the following year. Salary increases will now be given every five years for all teachers. Educators with 6 to 10 years of experience will also receive sizeable gains in their pay… For educators with 25 years or more of experience in the classroom, they are receiving a .3 percent increase in pay for the coming year, which means they have received a 1.5 percent increase in pay since 2009.”

    I am happier and healthier since my decision to leave teaching. Please don’t mistake my opinion as a sense of self-entitlement. You can’t possibly think you know my whole story from a two minute segment. I’ve worked hard since I was 16 years old to get the things I want out of life. I set goals and achieve them. I am grateful for the opportunities to make my dreams a reality in the state I call home. My hope is that I can continue to do so given the effects the budget will have on the film industry here.

    Ashley Bratcher

    P.S. Through this thread I was called “liberal” for the first time EVER. Assume is a funny word when you break it down.

  • deputy25 says:

    another that thinks they are ENTITLED to more for nothing. I am about sick and tired of people knowing what career they choose and then whine about the pay after they get into the job knowing what it is when they start. i knew what my pay was when i started 28 years ago, didnt whine about about or want tenure either. i did it because i wanted to make a dent in crime, help people and make a difference knowing what i know now i would do it all over again. i have worked extra jobs to make ends meet but i didnt whine about it to no one.

  • Ashley Bratcher says:

    I took the time to reply to your comments. They should appear shortly.

  • ChefnSurf says:

    Guess I didn’t make myself perfectly clear. My bad. When I said “adjusted for inflation”, perhaps I should just have said “adjusted for the cost of living” or some such equivalent. I’m sure you get my point. Quite frankly, although it’s not living large, I still don’t see why a single young adult couldn’t live on almost $31,000 a year (plus a pretty decent benefits package compared to a lot of other people) in NC, or more specifically even in Wilmington.

    Concerning Wilmington, and the cost of living: In my earlier years I bounced around through a bunch of places and the cost of living here seems considerably less, or in the worst case, not excessively higher than in a lot of other places. I might be wrong about that (didn’t bother to look up the necessary stats), but if I am, it certainly doesn’t feel that way to me.

  • nhcscareerteacher says:

    I am grateful and proud of everything I have gotten in this latest budget. Please know that there are many more of us out there in public schools teaching because they love it,not for the $$$. This article is a joke. Not all of us teaching, now, are liberal activist that are entitled and condescending to everyone that disagrees with them. As far as the whole teacher-turned failing actress…I am sorry, but is this really newsworthy. I wish some of us teachers that admit we knew we were getting into a profession that would not make us rich, would get as much press as those who are always complaining that it is never enough. Most, no, probably all of the complainers are already making 45k-65k plus their longevity. And they are now complaining that they have to “share” this “owed” benefit.. with their younger colleagues. They are so hypocritical when they have this behavior, while in the same breath preach about income inequality. If you can’t live off of your salary, either cut your expenses/lifestyle or find a new job/career. They are also spreading misinformation with the help of NCAE, the N&O, and other progressive activism websites as they compare the current salary schedule to the 2008 one that was the last one before the pay freeze. Face it, folks…we lost it, some of us were more fortunate enough to have been teaching a few years before so we were not stuck at the very bottom. This time, Everyone got a pay raise if you actually read the bill, and the teachers that got bigger raises are 5-7 year teachers that had been stuck at 30k since 2008.

  • ChefnSurf says:

    (I could be wrong, but I’m assuming Ashley is single and supports only herself)

    – Starting NC teacher salary is $30,778 (Google). I’m older, but adjusting for inflation, I could have lived on that when I was younger, especially with the included benefits package. Add just one part-time job to that (something I often had to resort to myself in my early years) and I most definitely could have lived on that, as could many people.

    – Initially, Ashley indicated she left teaching because of the money then later said teaching common core was a problem for her. That really seems to dilute the money issue.

    – She said teaching in NC wasn’t a “viable career option” so she moved to Wilmington to become an actress. To Wilmington? If anyone was really serious about becoming an actress why would they move here instead of to one of those large urban areas that have proven reputations for germinating people in the arts? The only reason that comes to mind is because that would require better survival skills than the ones MS. Bratcher seems to possess. More importantly, how could she possibly consider pursuing an acting career in Wilmington to be a more secure “viable career option” than her teaching career was? That makes no sense at all.

    – This story just reeks with the odor of self promotion. The video contains no less than four photos of her which might be considered self promotional. Add to that the fact that she had to provide the photos herself and they are self promotional. As they say in that business. “There is no bad press, it’s all just additional exposure”. If that’s the case, her motivation wipes out her credibility.

    – How did this story come to be? Sara Hopkins, you’re the story’s reporter. If Ms. Bratcher contacted WWAY, this story is too self promotional to even take seriously. If in some manner WWAY contacted her, how did that come to be? By simply taking everything Ashley said at face value, this news piece would most definitely seem to smack of less than objective story telling.

  • WilmingtonMAJ says:

    I would agree with much of what you say, but to say that you could have lived off of $30,000 (or the adjusted equivalent) in your youth does not take into account the rise in cost of living. The cost of living in the Wilmington area is much higher than in many places, and has risen far more than income has.

  • Heimie Schmelter says:

    I hold great respect for teachers that stay in there and do what they can do teach the future leaders of this country. Not only enduring the not so great pay, but to withstand the lack of today’s parenting and discipline in the children they are to teach. It is a somewhat thankless job and only the dedicated do it. My hat is off to each and every one of them that are able to spend at least 10 years of their career in such a challenging field. I believe the only ones that continue are those that have it in their heart and soul and are dedicated in their personal mission of making a difference with today’s children.

    While I understand the teaching profession to have its fair share of challenges, this teacher is nothing more than a whiner that made poor choices with her education vs. economical desires. She does not demonstrate through her attitude, her performance or her rambling rhetoric that she has the basic desires and qualities it takes to be an good educator, she wants money and wants it as easy as she can get it. She shouldn’t be worried “again” that her “new career” is jeopardized by the lack of film incentives as those are not what sells movie tickets, it’s the people that attend the movies. So, IF you are a good actor. IF you are popular among the producers and directors and IF you happen to gain fame for your work, you have nothing to worry about. If you don’t qualify for ANY of those three attributes, you’ll simply become a part time study lucky to get a 3-sentence read in a class B film. If that’s the way you want to live your life, then be prepared to work five jobs at a time and be a master at none.

  • Taxpayer$$$ says:

    Whatever a “decent living” is, it does not equate to quality and excellence in performance when artificial economic distortions are applied.

    Why did the teachers union, er association, squeal so loudly when pay for performance plans were proposed? The best and the brightest were not the ones clamoring for across the board pay increases without consideration for merit bonuses or increases in pay for excellent performance. Pay scales based upon how many years a chair has been warmed do not result in better performance. Homogenized mediocrity stifles innovation and blunts enthusiasm.

    The best teachers must endure the drudgery of the collective until the chafing becomes unbearable and they leave or succumb while the lazy and marginal channel their efforts into whining, cajoling, and bullying for more and more money while rebuking any notion of improving performance and outcomes for the students.

    The incentives in place yield the current pablum of warehouse education. Parents know it and thus we have private schools, charter schools, and in some places, vouchers. At last check, the Obama kids are not enrolled in DC public schools.

    Until schools run more like incentive driven successful enterprises and less like the People’s Tractor Factory #41, little will change. Our children deserve better.

  • Mechanic says:

    If she is having to work 3 jobs to make ends meet, she is living far beyond he means. People need to learn how to make their lifestyle fit their income. I would hope that she researched the pay scale for NC teachers before making the decision to become one. If she did, she has no reason, like all the rest, to cry the blues when the paychecks arrive every month. I notice in a quoted paragraph she started a sentence with “like”. Maybe giving up teaching is a wise move, after all.

  • 9743 says:

    I agree with your statement about checking the pay scale before making a decision on taking a job….now if fire fighters and police officers had applied that same logic before they accepted their positions they wouldn’t have to be whining about their low pay and having to work a second job on their days off.

  • Machiavel says:

    going from your comfy office chair of judgement? I responded to this tired conservative thinking before- so I will quote myself. Also I don’t want to rewrite the same opinion and pretend like it is a different sentiment.

    “Do you realize you are arguing against having qualified people teach our kids? That is the only point we hear over and over again, essentially- if you don’t like it go elsewhere. So after all the qualified and passionate teachers leave, what will you complain about next? Oh yes that’s right, it will be about new immigrants stepping in to take the jobs. Once we realize that the news media outlets are driving us to have these fights-don’t care which, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, or any other-it makes us take our eye off of the fact that nothing will get better till people can make a decent living at their jobs.”

    “We should thank each and every teacher that stays to serve our children despite growing disrespect and government interference in their jobs. But if you listen to the media- teachers have it easy. Summers off, tenure, and no accountability. If you care to know the real story go volunteer in a downtown school and see the picnic those teachers have. I will assure you once faced with reality you will never listen to the media again.”

    I stand by this original post; and I challenge you to volunteer then write a truly well researched opinion. Please stop forming opinions taken from whichever “pundit” the media is paying this week. BTW, I will tell you a little secret-the paid pundits don’t actually subscribe the the things they say. They are paid performers, that get higher rates on the more outrageous and ridiculous things they say.

  • Ainsley Ackworth says:

    Subsidizing her teachers salary wasnt enough, so now the taxpayer must support her pie in the sky acting dreams. More hope and change.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    promoting false hopes? The budget is set; the Governor will sign it into effect.

    Film incentives are grant based and funded with $10,000,000.

    Teacher pay raise is an average of 7%. Based on time in service, some get more; some get a lower percentage.

    Rather than promote false hopes, why not have Wuzzardo give a few lessons on how the legislative process works and what constitutes an effective lobbying effort?

  • Unaffiliated Voter says:

    I remember when there were no teacher assistants…my mom taught for 26 years without one…teachers need to get down off their high horses and get with the real world!

    WHY are these teachers not showing their RAGE toward UNC college professors who make OUTRAGEOUS salaries ???

    Strive to be smarter than ANY criminal democrackkk WANTS you to BE !!!

  • Machiavel says:

    Ask your Mom how many kids were in her class, then look up how many kids the teachers are expected to teach- you will have the answer as to why they need assistants.

  • Heimie Schmelter says:

    MOST people that chance the endeavor of teaching do not do it for the money. They do it because they want to make a difference and they want to watch children develop, but it has never been about the money. Surely you had this as a consideration prior to spending the years and money on a college education to do this!? It’s teachers with your attitude that the “tenure” is designed for and why it should be abolished. You don’t have it in your heart and soul to teach and likely never be successful at it, so you truly need that safety blanket.

    So then you jump into the “fly by night” film industry. Get a part here or a part there, but it’s unlikely you’re a Marilyn Monroe or a Hillary Clinton (LOL). At best, a hit ‘n miss, part time actress that’s lucky to pay your rent on time month to month. Sorry, but that’s the nature of THAT business too and you should have considered that before committing. Film Incentives have zero to do with your success or failure there.

    Now, you can go back to school to be an MD, PA, Nurse, surgeon, an attorney, an engineer and expect to earn a decent salary. Just remember that getting into any profession, no matter what it is, requires more motivation than the desire of money. Unless of course, all you want to do is become a thief. I doubt you would last very long at that either…

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