Summer sans the classroom

Tri-State area teachers work or play during summer months

Tri-State area teachers work or play during summer months

June 20, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

When second-graders from Valley View Elementary School in Martinsburg, W.Va., run into their teacher, Jason Darr, on summer weekends, they often appear stunned and a little perplexed.

That's because Darr isn't in his usual position at the front of a classroom, but bustling about inside a colorful trailer, working an ice machine and squirting flavored syrups as he serves up snow cones from the traveling shaved ice stand he runs with his wife, Lindsey.

"They can't believe it's me," Darr said. "I'm only a teacher to them. It's pretty surprising to the young ones, especially ... I think they don't realize that we have lives."


But, for three short months at least, the Darrs do have lives and jobs outside of the classroom, and they wouldn't have it any other way.

"I wouldn't be a teacher if we didn't have a summer off," Jason said. "It's a matter of sanity."

And selling snow cones is just the mindless, vacationy occupation to give a teacher a break, he said. Jason bought the stand from his father-in-law three years ago, Lindsey said, because "it seemed like the perfect job for a teacher for the summer."

"It's just a completely different experience," said Lindsey, a math teacher at Smithsburg High School. "(During the school year), you have to put forth a lot of mental energy and think and be on top of your game all the time. Once you have the trailer set up, (selling snow cones is) basically just the same thing over and over again."

The Darrs join a number of local teachers who relax during the summer with seasonal, recreational jobs such as lifeguarding and working at summer camps.

"I know the (teacher) friends that I talk to, they don't want to do anything involving teaching," Lindsey said. "They just need to rejuvenate so that they're not burned out."

The arrangement often benefits the teachers and their seasonal employers, said Washington County Recreation Department manager Jaime Dick, who said he seeks out first- and second-year teachers for positions at the county's summer camps and sports leagues.

"I think we get preferential treatment to get into those jobs," said Andy Crouse, who just finished his third year teaching ninth-grade English at South Hagerstown High School, where he also coaches the junior varsity basketball team. This summer, he's spending his mornings working with children at a basketball camp and his evenings as a court supervisor of high-school students in the Washington County summer basketball league.

"We're with the kids all year and I just think it's kind of a natural carryover," Crouse said. "The kids know us and we know them."

"I couldn't ask for a better summer job," Crouse added. "I love it."

Crouse is quick to admit, however, that the money from these jobs is supplemental, at best. It helps pay the bills, but the main purpose of the job is to keep himself occupied during the summer months.

Claude Sasse, president of the Washington County Teachers' Association, said most teachers' paychecks from the school board end when the school year does.

"People always misunderstand," Sasse said. "We get paid for 190 teaching days - the kids are in school for 180, and for the other 10, we do professional development. There's no vacation time at all. No summer vacation, no spring vacation. Those are nonwork days; we don't get paid for that."

Experienced teachers who want summer employment within the school system often get jobs teaching summer school, Sasse said, though Alternative Education Programs coordinator Robert Beard said those with experience teaching alternative education are first in line for the openings. Summer-school teachers get paid salaries commensurate to their normal teaching salaries, Beard said.

Many teachers also attend two- to three-day professional workshops, earning between $25 and $35 an hour for their attendance, Sasse said.

Others, such as Cathy Grantham, a fifth-grade teacher at Maugansville Elementary School, are using the time off for vacations and pure relaxation. Grantham is planning a road trip to St. Louis, Nevada and Santa Rosa, Calif., to visit family, as well as a camping trip with family, friends and wild horses on Assateague Island.

"In between times, I try to read and keep up with my gardening," Grantham said.

The bottom line for most teachers is simply to stay busy, said Brian McAleer of Boonsboro, a fifth-grade teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary School in West Virginia who spends his summers directing a summer camp at Boonsboro Elementary School.

"I wouldn't have anything else to do in the summer," McAleer said. "I'd be bored at home all the time."

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