Where should I live and teach?
October 1, 2012 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Where should I live: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, or Utah? Or beyond?

I'm teaching overseas at the moment. I'd like to return to the US and continue teaching. It seems like the most efficient, affordable route I've discovered is though the ABCTE program. (http://www.abcte.org/teach) I'm about ready to take the plunge on doing the program (although other suggestions are welcome), but I'm not sure what state to choose to live in.

ABCTE is recognized in 11 states, and out of those, I think I'm interested in Utah, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. I've been to both PA and Utah, but not to New Hampshire, although I've been around New Hampshire and I like that area.

So, if you have experiences in these places, where should I live?

Lifestyle wise, things that are important to me are:

- Great art and theatre. I've been living remote for over five years now, and I miss going to plays and museums more than anything. I really want to be close to a good artistic center.
- Walkable. I'd prefer not to have a car.
- Affordable, safe place downtown. I guess this goes with being walkable. I'd like to live in an accessible area that's near a lot of things and public transport to get to work.
- Climate is not a huge issue. I've lived in super hot states, and I've lived in very cold states, and I can do either pretty easily. I love to ski, but I like going to the beach, and all of the things in between, basically.

Work wise, I'm not sure. I've only worked at one US elementary school. It was low-income, and a fairly small student population but with large classes. It was OK, but I didn't love it.

Thanks for any advice on this.
posted by amodelcitizen to Work & Money (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hmm, I don't really associate New Hampshire with plays and museums. I mean, obviously there are museums and theaters. But it's largely smaller-town kind of living. On the same note, it would be unusual to live in New Hampshire without a car, and, to my mind, difficult. There are New Hampshire towns with cute walkable downtowns, but without a car I don't know how you'd get *out* of the cute walkable downtown. Only a handful of New Hampshire cities have any kind of public transportation at all.

I don't have as much experience in Pennsylvania and Utah as I do in New Hampshire (I live in Massachusetts and have friends and relatives living in New Hampshire) but my impression is that the stuff you're looking for would be more readily available in a larger city in PA or UT than in NH.
posted by mskyle at 9:02 PM on October 1, 2012

Inasmuch as PA is on your list, you're looking at Philadelphia. Theater and art: Check. Walkable, affordable, exciting downtown with public transit: Check. Plus, proximity to DC and NYC means you can piggyback on their cultural events and resources pretty easily; day-tripping to see a show in New York or to visit a Smithsonian museum is unremarkable.

Pittsburgh wants to be on your list, and it might still work for you, but I'm not sure I'd really consider it properly friendly to the un-car'd. In Philly I know plenty of people who don't own cars and don't feel the need to, because they live in Center City; in Pittsburgh I used to know carless folks, but the recent gutting of the transit system has taken it from "doable, if not always ideal" to "frequently infuriating." (As for arts and theatre, I tend to say that Pittsburgh has a much better and bigger and more vibrant cultural scene than a city of its size has any right to, but it's still a small place, and once you've seen what there is to see, there aren't other major metropolitan areas within an easy jaunt.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:03 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been to Philly, and I liked it, but I'm intimidated by the crime rate. I keep thinking of that "most dangerous city" label.
posted by amodelcitizen at 9:09 PM on October 1, 2012

I've just moved from Philly to New Hampshire. While Philadelphia is not cheap (cheaper than NYC or DC, but not objectively cheap), it meets all the other criteria you have. New Hampshire is not walkable, even the bigger cities like Manchester.
posted by desiderandus at 9:18 PM on October 1, 2012

There is nowhere in Utah that you cannot have a car. Same for New Hampshire.

For what you want, you're looking at Philadelphia.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:27 PM on October 1, 2012

I've been to Philly, and I liked it, but I'm intimidated by the crime rate. I keep thinking of that "most dangerous city" label.

The crime rate in Philly - as in almost every city - is extremely dependent on neighborhoods. Yes, it's a dangerous city, taken as a whole. It's also a very big city, and most of that danger is not in the walkable, culture-packed downtown areas that you'd be pointed to if your question was "where in Philly should I live," with the same criteria presented. I'm not saying crime doesn't exist - this is still a big city - but it's not evenly distributed. Just as nationwide crime rates are less meaningful if you live in a safe town, a high crime rate in North Philly doesn't make me less safe in Center City.

(I also bring this up because Philly is one of the few places in the country where it's easy-ish to live without a car, and none of the ones that I can think of are in NH or Utah.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:28 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

(And, as I forgot to mention above, you can still live in the dangerous part of a "safe city" as easily as in the safe part of a "dangerous city.")
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:30 PM on October 1, 2012

Looking at the ABCTE site, I would suggest adding St. Louis to your list, maybe?
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:30 PM on October 1, 2012

I lived near downtown Portsmouth NH. Portsmouth and Dover are basically walkable, though getting groceries always involves a rather long slog of a mile or more unless you really pick your spots. Both cities have a very good music/arts/theatre/play/indie-movie scene for towns of their size. However, it's not so easy to get teaching work there, because due to the lovely lovely quality of life, the jobs are super competitive.

Those are really the only two cities I think could be livable without a car in NH, and (a) it still isn't easy and (b) I don't think that's where such a program would place you.

If you're flexible about the car thing - like, you don't mind having a car but just don't want to drive it every day - I think you could find good places to live in NH.
posted by Miko at 9:44 PM on October 1, 2012

Portsmouth, NH is a very cool small city with a walkable downtown and is very close to Boston.
posted by LarryC at 10:12 PM on October 1, 2012

If, as Miko says, you're flexible about the car thing, you should check out the Easton/Bethlehem/Allentown area of Pennsylvania. Cheap housing, on public transit they're an hour from Philly/1.5 hours from NYC, and these are big college towns so there's lots of small-time performing arts and culture stuff going on.

Otherwise Philly for sure.
posted by lalex at 10:38 PM on October 1, 2012

I'm from New Hampshire originally and the only city in NH that fills your criteria is Portsmouth. Bonus: it's the best town NH has to offer.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:23 PM on October 1, 2012

Nthing Portsmouth if you were to go with New Hampshire.
posted by XMLicious at 11:31 PM on October 1, 2012

Also a New Hampshire native (well, not really, but I lived 15 of the first 18 years of my life there) and I really love the state, but it is not walkable, except for the small pockets that everyone mentions. I'd add another partially walkable area: Concord; my sister lived in downtown Concord--mostly successfully--for a while with a very broken car. I don't think she ever used public transit (it is very limited). But, with the right apartment location, you can get to pretty much everything on foot or with a bike (maybe a sled in the winter?).

If the car thing is at all flexible, there are some amazing private schools in the state that look a lot like colleges (and are priced that way and pay that way), but tend to be in rural areas. And if you teach at a private school, the certification thing is much more flexible (if needed at all, from my understanding).
posted by chiefthe at 1:30 AM on October 2, 2012

I was born and raised in Philadelphia (in the city) , and my entire family still lives there. I've never had anything "dangerous" happen to me (seconding what Tomorrowful said, too). It's a very walkable city (I never got a driver's liscense), it's affordable, it's full of natural and architectural beauty, and there's tons of cultural stuff going on.
posted by bearette at 2:36 AM on October 2, 2012

Portsmouth is lovely, but it's not the type of city you're describing. You could possibly get by without a car, but the cultural activities you're hoping to find are fairly limited there.
posted by xingcat at 4:36 AM on October 2, 2012

Bits of NH are walkable, but we don't have particularly good connections to other places. So - if you're cool with being in Portsmouth and only in Portsmouth, or Concord and only in Concord (no thanks!!!), then that might work?

The other thing to think about is the climate for teachers right now. NH is becoming increasingly conservative and school funding is disappearing. Right now, the high school I went to in Manchester has more than 40 students in some classes. The kindergartens have 35+ students, and the mayor is totally uninterested in putting in more funding. They pink-slip incredible numbers of teachers every year in reaction to the budget, and it's mostly new ones. I don't know much about internal politics in other cities across the state, but I would not expect the situation to be vastly different in Concord or Portsmouth.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:03 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The safeness of Philly really depends on neighborhood. Drop me a line if you would like more details. I can't imagine the art and culture/walkability would be comparable anyplace else. Heck, it's the only other place I would consider living, and I'm a diehard non-driving museum-hopping New Yorker.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:09 AM on October 2, 2012

I have lived in Pittsburgh PA and in Lebanon NH.

Both score high on everything you mention, assuming some constraints.

I found the PAT buses in PGH to be fine to get to work (Lived in Oakland and Squirrel Hill, worked on South Side). But those are "down town" neighborhoods. (ie I could walk 4 blocks to grocery, book store, bagel shop, mineos pizza etc etc) Get out in the burbs, YMMV.

Housing in PGH is very affordable, but finding the intersection neighborhoods and your wants is tricky. Houses in down-town area can be had in the $60-80k.

Plenty of arts and theater etc in PGH. Never had a problem with crime, even for a big city.

In Lebanon NH, you're right next to Hanover, home of Dartmouth College. The sheer number of cultural events the college hosts boggled my mind (for such a small town).

The bus service between Leb and Hanover were free at the time, and ran a regular schedule.

If you're near the town square, you can walk to the ABC store, a few restaurants, smaller grocery store etc.

Housing, I don't recall. If you want Hanover, it's gonna cost you. Lebanon is/was cheaper, but I can't put a dollar figure on it.

Only crime in NH was kids egging my car a few times.
posted by k5.user at 7:15 AM on October 2, 2012

I'm going to recommend Pittsburgh. Nice culture, great museums, neat areas to walk in (Mexican War Streets, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill)

The school system is good in Pennsylvania.

You may want to relent on the walkable/car thing. There are all sorts of neat places to walk in Pittsburgh, it's just more convenient to drive to them first, then walk around (like The Strip).

Perhaps live/work on a major bus line, but have a car for the weekend?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:06 AM on October 2, 2012

Yeah, you want Philly. No, it isn't the murder capital that you're thinking it is.
posted by jph at 8:11 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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