By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4)– A group of teachers at Munroe Elementary School aren’t done with the classroom after the bell rings at the end of the day. Instead, the teachers become the students.

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An agreement between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools made it possible for these educators to afford higher education, and subsequently, higher salaries.

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“It didn’t make sense for me to get my master’s before. I wouldn’t get paid to get my master’s. I would get debt if I got my master’s,” said Fallon Newman, a 5th grade teacher at Munroe.

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Newman recently enrolled in graduate school at CU Denver. It’s higher education she’s always wanted to pursue, but couldn’t budget before the strike.

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“Now my salary will go up after I get my master’s and I can pay it off,” explained Newman, “Ideally I will graduate in 2021.” She says the 11% salary increase teachers received under the new deal will help her make payments throughout school.

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In previous years, Newman says the pay increase for advanced degrees couldn’t cover the student debt she would have racked up. Now, there’s more incentive for teachers to keep learning.

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“I’ve always wanted to go to grad school, now I have the tools to climb the ladder,” said Newman.

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Newman already has her hands full teaching 5th graders, not to mention the side jobs she picks up to supplement her income, but Newman says she can handle a few books of her own. She says her students were supportive when she told them she’s furthering her education.

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“It actually helps me connect better with them. I’m able to say ‘Hey listen, when I’m doing my schoolwork and something doesn’t make sense when I read it the first time, I do this…’” Newman explained.

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She says it’s those connections that have kept her with DPS, when other districts still pay more.

“I could pick up and move to Cherry Creek and make what? $1,000 more per year after taxes? That’s not worth it. Some of the students in my class now, I’ve known since kindergarten! They’ve wanted to be in my class since Kindergarten. Our school is a family, a chaotic family!” laughed Newman.

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Newman will get some tuition reimbursement through DPS, but the majority she’ll have to pay for on her own. She estimates her master’s degree will cost her $16,000. The other teachers at Munroe who are also going back to school plan to study together after the last bell, inside the same school where they all teach.

Tori Mason

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