During the early days of the pandemic, Cayci Weaver was able to hold on to her teaching job. Educating high school students, however, was not easy; the switch to remote learning was a challenge, she says.
"I think we were working 12-hour days for about a week, just trying to get everything set up," she said, adding: "You know, you gotta do what you gotta do to make sure you're not failing the students."
But she says after those initial struggles, students adapted, and so did she.
Weaver said she didn't always want to be a teacher. Even into her college years, she says she was still unsure of what career path to take.
But she said she had always loved history. That's why, a little more than ten years ago, she applied for a job at a school in Jacksonville, Florida. After teaching middle school for a time, she eventually moved to the high school level, teaching American history to 11th and 12th graders.
It may not have been a lifelong dream, but Weaver says she came to love teaching.
"Nobody gets into teaching because you're going to make a lot of money, because you know you're not going to," Weaver tells ABC Audio. "You get into it because you like what you're doing. You care about what you're doing."
Though money was tight on a teacher's salary, Weaver says she lived comfortably during the twelve years she spent in the classroom.
"I stuck it out for a while," she said.
While many Americans lost their jobs in 2020, Weaver was still working and adapting to changes brought by the pandemic.
"After the ball got rolling, and the kids adapted to what the new normal was… I actually enjoyed it a lot more," says Weaver.
She also says that time allowed her to discover something about her job that she didn't fully see before the pandemic.
"For me, I think I thrived, a bit, in that environment," she says.
She says working remotely illuminated the things she was missing during her days commuting back and forth to school.
"It was just better being at home, where I could spend more time with family and my pups, so I actually enjoyed that a whole lot more," she says. "It felt like I had more time to enjoy what I wanted to do while still also being present for the students and still teaching."
When the 2020 school year began, Weaver's school had adopted a hybrid model for students, and she had to continue teaching students remotely while at the same time engaging the students who returned to school for in-person learning. Plus, with parents going back to work, coronavirus concerns began to mount, as well.
"The number of parents that would send their kids to school when they knew their kids were sick because they didn't have day care for them, or they didn't have an option - they didn't have anyone to watch their kids - that happened quite frequently."
For Weaver and her colleagues, all of that equaled burnout.
"We always called it the 'April feeling,' where you just wanted the end of the school year to get here because you're worn out. That 'April feeling' came in September," she says.
So at the end of that school year, in May 2021, after her students made it through state testing, Weaver quit her job.
"Twelve years later, I think I'm ready to just cut my losses and start looking out for more me, and my future long term, rather than just living paycheck to paycheck," she says.
She's now a real estate agent, and while it might not be as much history on a day-to-day basis, she says things have been easier. Weaver says in the first two months of 2022 she's already made half of her full year's salary as a teacher. And she says her finances aren't the only thing that's improved.
"I think I made the right choice," she said. "I can get home a little early to make sure I have time to cook, or I can get home a little earlier to make sure that I can do the things that I want to do. I 100 percent think that this was the right call for me."