In a state where teachers don't make much money in the first place, Teresa Purtee just may be the lowest paid of all.
That's because Purtee, principal-administrator at Payson Community Christian School, gives most of her salary back to the school so it can keep operating.
"We had a rent increase this year, and the only way we could pay it was with my salary," Purtee said. But she also admits she has given most of her salary back all three years she has been at PCCS.
"Fortunately my husband has a job," she said.
PCCS, which is located on the second floor of Payson First Assembly of God Church at 1100 West Lake Drive, has been around for a dozen years.
Purtee was instrumental in adding high school grades last year, so the school is now in its second year of offering K-12 instruction.
"We have seven full-time teachers, five part-time teachers, one aide and we're looking for another aide," Purtee said.
Seventy-five students attend PCCS, which is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International.
"We have multi-grades," she said. "Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten have their own teachers, but then we have combo classes first and second, third and fourth, fifth and sixth, seventh and eighth. Then our eight high school students are all together."
Besides giving back most of her salary, Purtee also teaches classes whenever she can.
Valeri Marsh, a friend of Purtee, says she does it all.
"In order to keep in close touch with the needs of students and staff, she makes it a point to teach at least one class daily," March said, "and she can often be found substituting and filling in wherever she's needed from acting as her own secretary, staying after school to tutor or counsel a student, or babysitting a teacher's infant for an hour."
Purtee, who has lived in Christopher Creek for 21 years, home-schooled her own children for the same reason she is so devoted to PCCS.
"Because Christ and the Bible cannot be taught in a public school," she said. "That's why we can't get any type of funding from them, any kind of grants from them."
While the Bible is included in all classes offered at PCCS even math, the school stands for more.
"We want to provide for our students' spiritual and social needs, but we also want to provide them with the best education possible," Purtee said. "The school's goal is to provide a quality education in an atmosphere that makes learning fun and enjoyable. We want to train and challenge our students to do and be their best."
The PCCS campus features nine classrooms, a lunchroom, two playgrounds, a library and a computer lab. Extracurricular offerings include basketball, drama, art, music, physical education and cheerleading.
Students who are in the sixth grade and up can only gain admission by going through a student entrance committee.
"The committee is made up of their potential teacher and two board members," Purtee said. "We let them know what we're looking for and what we're going to do what our expectations are. Then we ask them what their expectations are to see if we can meet them."
One of the things that seems to excite prospective students most is that each one gets his or her own locker.
"Our kids really like having lockers," Purtee said. "In the high school you only get a locker when you're a senior, but here everyone gets a locker."
Tuition is about $2,700 a year, but some scholarships are available.
Future plans call for eventually building their own school.
"We're actually looking for our own property," Purtee said. "We have the blueprints drawn up, and we're looking at a 20,000-square-foot facility. We have about 15,000 where we are now, but we can't use all of it."
Besides applying for grants, the school has a building fund to which donations can be made. Another way to help is through the Arizona Private School Tax Credit law.
Closely related to the public schools' Credit for Kids program, it allows donations up to $500 with households entitled to take a tax credit equal to the amount donated.
At least 90 percent of the donated funds are used for tuition grants and scholarships for students attending the school.
"People can donate anytime during the year, but the deadline is Dec. 31," said Purtee. "A lot of people wait until later to see what they can afford to do."
Marsh says that people considering helping the school couldn't have a better example than her friend.
"Teresa Purtee walks the talk when it comes to her faith," Marsh said. "She takes on these huge, scary challenges, but she's never afraid because she doesn't take a single step until she's sure it's in God's will. Then she doesn't worry about it any more, but simply does the work he's given her and watches him perform his miracles."
Call PCCS at 474-8050 for more information.