What do teachers do during the summer? Lounge all day by the pool? Take shopping trips to Nashville or Louisville? Visit Disney World with friends and family? Maybe some do. But what many people don’t realize is that teachers ALWAYS work during the summer. This school break is not three months of continuous vacation with no worries about students, lesson plans, or new teaching strategies. On the contrary, teachers spend a great deal of time in professional development sessions, preparing their classroom climate, and planning lessons with engaging activities for students.
As an educator, I am fully aware that many teachers must also work additional jobs during the schools’ summer break in order to make ends meet. Within our community, teachers work at Friday After 5, hostess at local restaurants, run fireworks stands, and wait tables. However, when I questioned my friends who are educators in the Owensboro-Daviess County area, I found what I had very much expected. A vast number of educators in our area continue following their heart’s passion during the summer by, you guessed it, TEACHING. Let me tell you about some of these individuals who are making our community a better place for our kids.
Bayli Boling, a graduate of the University of Alabama who chose to return to Owensboro to work and live, just completed her first year teaching 8th grade social studies at Owensboro Middle School. However, Bayli, who is also planning her wedding for next summer, has been an educator for much longer than that. Since her freshman year in college, she has worked during the summer at a federally-funded camp provided by Daviess County Public Schools. As a college intern for the past four years, and now as an instructional assistant, Bayli is spending her summer helping children of migrant parents by supporting them academically and working with others to fulfill the students’ basic needs. Because she is a secondary social studies major, teaching math and reading to 3rd grade students is totally out of Bayli’s comfort zone, but she loves the challenge. According to Bayli, the camp is “truly a family,” so she continues to apply year after year.
In addition to the summer program, Bayli continues her volunteerism with the Daviess County Lions Club Fair, an organization she has been involved with for the past 10 years. This gives Bayli, the 2011 Miss Daviess County and three-year director of the pageant, an opportunity to serve as a role model for local young women, ages 16-21. With the help of other former queens and community members, Bayli teaches these women valuable skills that will help them in their futures: how to conduct themselves in an interview, keep their poise even in stressful situations, work alongside others while minimizing conflict, persevere with their goals and rally for causes about which they are passionate.
Another new teacher, Misty House, just spent her entire first year as an educator staying after school each day until 5:30 p.m. to work with students through the 21st Century Grant. A 3rd grade teacher at Estes Elementary, Misty, along with 10 other teachers and four assistants, will continue to work with those same students each weekday through the end of June, bolstering their basic skills and hopefully allowing them to reach their educational goals, so that they will be on grade level for the upcoming school year. Misty, a mom with two daughters in college, also works alongside other employees each night at Gary’s Drive-In, preparing the restaurant for the next business day.
Sandy Swift, a 6th grade reading, writing, and leadership teacher at College View Middle School has been an educator for 17 years. This summer, not surprisingly, she is also continuing to teach. A mother of two children still living at home, Sandy says she works to supplement her income in order to offer her family additional opportunities and experiences. She finds great fulfillment working in the Skill Train program at Owensboro Community & Technical College’s downtown campus, where she tutors English Language Learners as well as individuals working to earn their GED. As an added bonus, this job has also allowed her to reconnect with and teach alongside her former middle school math teacher.
Another opportunity Sandy has taken advantage of is teaching English to students in China. Through an organization called QKids, Sandy “meets” with students online through multiple 30-minute interactive lessons. Working mostly with young children, ages 4-5, Sandy not only teaches them the English language, but she also uses stories about her own children to help students relate to the material. Using a map, she demonstrates where Kentucky is located in relation to their home country, and shows students the time difference by allowing them to look out her window to see that it is dark outside at the same time it is sunny outside in China. Sandy also enjoys meeting the children’s parents, many of whom have attempted to teach her words in their own language. She particularly relished listening to one of her students as they serenaded her with “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music, sung completely in Chinese.
It is no secret that teacher salaries are not the greatest, and that teachers spend much of their own money by investing in materials for their classrooms and incentives for their students. Many teachers don’t make enough to take “vacation” all summer, and oftentimes they must work to support their family, pay for an upcoming wedding or put their children through college. Nevertheless, what I found most rewarding about researching this article was the number of educators who, regardless of pay, pour themselves into continuing to educate students and better their community, even during their summer “break.”