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School might be out for summer, but some teachers opt for seasonal work


July 27, 2013 at 2:27 a.m.

Jonathan Sixtos, youth pastor of Good News Church, middle, leads a prayer circle before leaving for Discovery Camp in Columbus. Four chaperones and 14 students will be attending this year from Good News Church. "It's a chance for kids to meet thousands of people who believe what they do. They are encouraged in their faith, and it's targeted for their age group, so it's more relevant to their everyday lives," Sixtos said.

Victoria East High School's final bell May 30 marked more than the start of summer vacation. It also marked the end of Jonathan Sixtos' first teaching stint.

The freshmen English teacher joined the staff in January, when another teacher stepped down, he said, and he survived those first months in the classroom.

Still, the work didn't end there.

Sixtos, 23, took a monthlong summer position with the district, tutoring students who had failed the statewide test.

"Being that I didn't have a whole lot of experience yet, I thought it would help me with my teaching," he said, explaining the added money was another incentive. "I thought it was a good opportunity to learn a little bit more."

And Sixtos isn't the only educator working his way through summer.

It's common for teachers to take on additional work once the break hits, said John Wright, senior policy analyst with the National Education Association. And although he had no concrete numbers, he said the practice has become increasingly popular in today's recovering economy.

Many educators nationwide have gone without raises in recent years, he said, and those who have received increases still see reduced buying power.

Other factors also join the mix, Wright said.

Many teachers are early into their careers, so that added income helps in paying off college loans and supporting young families. Still, more teachers take part in additional training, on their own time and at their own expense.

"They fit their summer earning needs around their summer learning needs," Wright said.

Teacher pay is improving these days, but educators remain underpaid, saidDwight Harris, area representative for the American Federation of Teachers Victoria chapter. For many people, that need for supplemental work remains.

He advised anyone considering a teaching career to be prepared for a full workload.

"There's a false assumption that teaching is not that difficult a job, but it's extremely difficult," he said, noting many teachers face discipline problems, overcrowded classrooms and more. "I'm not sure I'd be suited for teaching now."

The Victoria school board in June passed pay increases to the district's teachers, principals, librarians, registered nurses and administrative staff. Under the new pay scale, teacher salaries range from $41,600 annually to $59,627, based on experience and education level.

VISD teachers can choose between payouts 10 months of the year - the months school is in session - or 12 months of the year, said Diane Boyett, the district's communication specialist.

Only three teachers currently opt for the 10-month option, she said.

Peggy Grier retired in May after 35 years teaching kindergarten, 23 of which she spent with VISD. Although she said the thought of a summer job sounded appealing when she first started out, she decided it wasn't worth it.

"I needed time with my kids," the mother of four explained. "I told myself that summer was time for family and a time for me to relax."

Still, the fact that she didn't draw a paycheck doesn't mean she didn't work.

Grier participated in staff development and in-service workshops, she said, and also used those days to prepare for the coming year.

It's a habit, she said, she's found difficult to break.

"Now, with Pinterest, there's a lot of neat ideas on the Internet," she said. "It's hard for me now because I'll think, 'That's really cool. I should do that.' But I don't need to worry about it."

As for Sixtos, he said that monthlong work was the right decision for him. Not only did it provide experience - and some extra money - but the temporary nature means he still gets a summer.

On Thursday, he loaded luggage into vans for an out-of-town camp with members of the Good News Church youth group he heads up.

His church work is another passion, he said, and one that his school schedule allows him to take part in.

It's also another place to teach.

"I've always believed that strategies you use in the classroom can carry over to the congregation," he said. "You're still giving them something to use in everyday life. You're just using a different textbook."



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