Teachers Take on Second Jobs for Summer
By Roxana Orellana, The Salt Lake Tribune
In less than a month, Angela Dondero’s daily scenery will change from rows of blazing conifers to rows of gossiping teenagers.
Dondero, like many Utah teachers, follows a different career path during summer vacation. She’ll return to teaching high school next month, but now she spends her days supervising a U.S. Forest Service firefighting crew.“It’s a nice break from teaching. It’s something completely different,” Dondero said of her summer job.
Having a second or summer job is no longer the exception for Utah teachers, according to Utah Education Association President Kim Campbell. “Most do it to supplement their income, to keep food on the table and raise their kids,” Campbell said. The income summer jobs provide is a necessity for many teachers, but for others, it’s a way to take a break, learn something new or just do something different.
“For the most part, I really like hanging out with the crew, camping and being outdoors,” said Dondero, a psychology teacher at Hillcrest High School in Midvale, who acknowledged she also likes the extra money. “It’s a good break. Teaching is really mentally exhausting,” Dondero said. “As a leader of a crew, there’s a lot of thinking and organizing going on, but it’s also physical work.”
She said most teachers she knows have summer jobs because the teaching profession just doesn’t pay enough. “As a single person you could live off it, but as a family, it would be difficult.” Terry and Gary Johnson fall into that category. Both are teachers and each has seven children, so they know the challenges of raising a family on a teacher’s salary.
The two, who are twins, learned how to install carpets and did that work for many years before going into teaching. During the school year, Gary teaches fourth grade at Sandy Elementary School and began teaching summer school two years ago. Terry teaches math at Cyprus High School. “At one point we quit teaching and went to carpet laying full time because you could make more money,” Gary said.
But then the economy slowed and they saw less demand for their services, so they returned to teaching, and for the past 30 years, have laid carpet during the summer.“When you’re 65, it’s not as fun as it used to be,” Terry said of his summer job. The two plan to retire at the end of this school year.
Salt Lake Community College German and Spanish instructor Christine Gonzales doesn’t get paid for the work she does during her summer break, and she’s OK with that. Gonzales volunteers arranging music for a Spanish-language choir in the community. “I’m more than compensated for the choir work I do,” Gonzales said. “It’s good for my ego; I get to share my favorite songs with others and we get to celebrate Latin culture through song.”
She said her summer work, which entails writing down Latin American folk songs and Christmas Carols for the singers, is an extension of her profession as a language teacher. Occasionally, it also helps her SLCC students find connections to native Spanish speakers to practice the language. But overall, Gonzales said her work with the choir is a sort of release. “It transforms what I do,” she said.
Campbell said teachers take a variety of summer jobs. Some teachers stock shelves, work in packing plants or teach summer school. “There are summer jobs that pay more than their teaching jobs but they go back to teach because that’s what they love,” she said.