Salt Lake City School District currently pays new teachers $45,000 a year. I got this information from a recent column by Tribune colleague Robert Gehrke.

Note: Robert is smart, way smarter than me, and he also researches his subjects, but that doesn’t make him a total expert.

What Robert failed to mention was where this $45,000 ranked compared to the official poverty level in Utah. Would $45,000 support a family of, oh, say, three? The three being two adults and either a small child unable to work or a large child who miserably failed to launch.

I have no idea and do not intend to find out. What I am certain of is that $45,000 is but a minuscule amount of what it would take to get me to be a teacher.

Having given it the amount of thought it merits — roughly 90 seconds — this is what I would require to teach at a middle to high school level:

First, the compensation package. Try $1.2 million a year in salary, 100% paid health coverage, and family leave for every child or grandchild’s birthday.

Second, drugs. To effectively teach human beings at a time when their libidos are 10 times larger than their brains, I would require any number of soothing medications (including illegal ones) to put me in the proper frame of mind.

Finally, a third-story (or higher) classroom with large windows. If I need to send a disruptive kid to the office, I want the path to be not only the most direct but also one that leaves a lasting impression.

A few other minor things come to mind — free lunch, Bear Mace, a whip, a school car and a remote locking door — but these are just picky things to which no one would seriously object.

Since no one is going to offer me this kind of deal to teach, we don’t have to worry about me getting anywhere near a classroom except on Grandparents Day.

Even though I couldn’t (wouldn’t, shouldn’t) be allowed to teach, I consider teaching to be among the top five most important jobs in society — superseded only by public safety, nursing, sanitation and the military.

Although teaching is only No. 5 on my list of top professions, it requires elements of the previous four. The teachers I had growing up not only taught me how to read but also nursed my injuries, kicked my butt, made me clean up after myself, and prevented me from oppressing others.

To some extent, the other professions are underpaid as well. But teachers? C’mon. They’re our first line of defense in the fight against self-extinction.

Teachers help us learn how to read, the ability of which is what sets us apart from all other animals. It’s even more important than opposable thumbs.

Being able to read keeps us from being poisoned, imprisoned, and a variety of other things that would end badly if we couldn’t.

For example, I believe — though can’t prove — that the instructions preventing the launching of our nuclear arsenal requires some ability to comprehend the written word.

And for this, we shortchange the very people who introduce us to the foundations of civilization. We should pay teachers more. We couldn’t pay them enough, certainly not what they’re worth. We don’t have that much money.

But more is at least a step in the right direction.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.