Teaching is his passion, he said, but it can be stressful, too, at times, to live paycheck to paycheck.
"I'm here just to support our friends in Raleigh and Charlotte, just to stand in solidarity with them". It's about the children that we work with every day. We have never see each other, but we all have the same voice.
Thousands of North Carolina teachers marched on the state Capitol on Wednesday calling for higher pay, greater spending on education and better working conditions.
Most carried signs expressing their hopes and desires.
Cheryl Burford is a music teacher at Clyde Erwin Elementary Magnet School of International Studies and Cultural Arts in Onslow County.
"This is nearly as big as my class size", one sign read.
"We are on track to spend over $2 billion more on K-12 in 2018-19 than was spent in 2010-2011", he said in a Twitter post.
Many bore the same message, like "Kids are worth more than 39th". There was a huge, supportive turnout from many counties.
"They have hard jobs and they deserve our respect and support" that he said goes beyond what the legislature can provide in funding to community and employer resources.
However, Conrad stressed that Republican legislators are not going to "shut down charter schools and do away with the opportunity scholarships" that pay a portion of the tuition for low-income students to attend a charter, religious or private school. "They are not paying them enough to be able to maintain a decent way of life". The protest prompted at least 38 districts, representing more than half the state's 1.5 million public school students, to cancel classes.
Cooper also went on to say that this was more than about teacher's pay.
Wednesday's rally is part of a national trend.
"I truly believe the educators came today to get the respect they deserve", Rep. Garland Pierce said. "What we've tried to do is put it into play in such a way that we reward people for doing a good job", Cook said. That's what brings us here.
The educators also want their lawmakers to fork over money to fix crumbling schools and fund 500 school counselors, social workers and psychologists. "Veteran teachers have been skipped over the past several years".
"I'd be making $17,000 more a year right now if I was teaching in Tennessee", shouted another. Over the same period, spending on public schools here has dropped by 8%. All have said that lawmakers have failed to adequately pay teachers and provide necessities for education.
For many teachers, the ball is now in the state legislature's court.
"The energy was really high", Warren said. "It's the children, and we have to have a heart for our children", he said.
Conrad expressed disappointment that she had heard from just three teacher constituents by email about wanting to meet with her Wednesday, as well as few walk-in visitors, even though the main teacher rally was occurring just yards outside her office. "Their base pay coming out of college is so low that after taxes and benefits, they can't even afford to even pay rent or their student loans, so they leave". They want the state to reach that national average for per pupil spending with the next four years.
Conrad said she had supported public-school education her whole life.
"It's awesome. It's unbelievable", Kenely said. "We talked about education policy".
Myers said he thinks schools need emphasis for more nurses, addressing special education needs, or helping students with anxiety attacks related to standardized testing.
"Each county feels the same way", Barnes said.
Trujillo said the support for the rally was incredible, even among non-teachers and from businesses along the march.
"It's historic to me", Jones said. It's very moving. It's inspiring.
"Long-term salary growth is in fact what North Carolina teachers need, and that's exactly what they got".