Some educators forget summer break, take on second jobs
To watch Jim Moncrief fishing with a group of kids on a recent morning at Crystal Lake Park in Urbana, it is clear he is a teacher.
He baits their hooks, helps them cast their lines, reminds them to carry their fishing poles straight up so they don't hook each other, poses them for pictures with their catches.
"Turn the handle, turn the handle, hurry, hurry," he says to 6-year-old Sarah Hohenstein of Mahomet, as her bobber begins bouncing up and down.
"There you go," he says, laughing, as she pulls a fish from the water. Moncrief takes it off the hook and throws it back, then asks, "You ready to catch another one? Same place? That's my favorite fishing spot."
During the school year, Moncrief teaches fifth grade at Carrie Busey Elementary School in Champaign. For years, he spent his summers in class himself, working on his master's degree. But now, come summertime, he's teaching fishing clinics for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
"It's a hoot," Moncrief said. "It's a lot of fun to see the kids catch their first fish. They get all excited and happy and they're jumping up and down and having a good time. It's a fun activity. It's an exciting time for them. For kids, (catching a fish) is a big deal. It's something they've never accomplished before."
And it's a nice change of pace for Moncrief. He teaches twice a day if there are groups scheduled, starting with a lecture on safety, basic fishing skills and a little ecology. Then he helps out while the kids fish for an hour or so, at either Crystal Lake in Urbana or Kaufman Lake in Champaign.
"It's the same lesson, two times a day. There's no pressure," he said. "Then I get to go out and get my hands all slimy with worms and fish. Plus, the kids are a lot easier to get along with because they are more interested. It's not like sitting in the classroom doing drudgery work. They are doing hands-on, something they are interested in doing."
For some teachers, summer means time off with their families. Others teach summer school or take classes.
But many, like Moncrief, hold down second jobs. They say the extra income is nice, but the real reason for working is the enjoyment of what they're doing.
Ted Houpt of Danville is still teaching in the summer, but it's tennis, not history.
"I do need to be rejuvenated," said Houpt, who teaches history at Danville High School and coaches the boys' tennis team. "I enjoy my teaching days thoroughly, (but) the last month or so, it begins to feel a little more like work. The kids are ready to be gone, it starts to get hot and there are distractions."
For the first two weeks after school is out, Houpt teaches at tennis camps, along with his wife, Kathy, at the Danville Tennis Center.
"That's work. We enjoy it, but those are some long days and a lot of kids to keep track of. But it's a lot of fun," he said.
Then, for the rest of the summer, Houpt teaches individual or small group lessons – a low-stress job, he said.
"I've always enjoyed tennis, and I get to work with kids that I like to be around, in an informal setting, at my own pace and my own hours," Houpt said.
Mike McMahon's "summer" job actually extends through much of the year. McMahon, a physical education teacher at Northview Elementary School in Rantoul, runs a landscaping and lawn care business called From The Ground Up.
"It's a totally different change of pace. That's why I like it," he said. "It's something different in the summertime. That kind of refreshes me. That's why I don't mind working summers and doing this type of work. I do really like what I'm doing. Most teachers you talk to that do work during summers, it's something they like."
McMahon works 35 to 40 hours a week in the summer, mowing and fertilizing lawns, trimming bushes, tilling and planting gardens. He rakes leaves and does yard and garden cleanup in the fall, after school and on weekends.
"I've always liked being outside. Doing physical work is a good way to keep in shape," he said.
"It ties into teaching and watching things grow," he continued. "You watch the kids grow, and I like to get things to grow. It's an art form. I like to try to make things look good. If I wasn't teaching, I probably would be doing landscaping full-time. I've enjoyed it that much."
Since he was 15, Tim Sheridan has spent summers on a survey crew or doing construction work for HDC Engineering in Champaign. This summer, though, he's concentrating on a new challenge – real estate.
Sheridan, who teaches fifth grade at Westview Elementary School in Champaign, took classes at Parkland College this spring and got his real estate license just as his school year was ending. He's taken some additional classes this summer and is trying to establish himself as a real estate agent.
Sheridan also tends bar part-time at Huber's.
"It sounded like fun, and when I was taking classes, I worked a lot more there to help me get through college and make spending money," he said.
He works there a couple of nights a week during the summer, and a couple of weekends during the school year – "never on a school night."
"It's a chance to socialize and keep in the know in the community," he said. "It's a camaraderie or friendship with the regulars from the neighborhood, since it's a neighborhood bar."
Moncrief watched recently as Sarah Hohenstein caught another fish. "Are you gonna take it off?" he asks her.
"What?" says Sarah, moving off to watch a boy fishing nearby.
"Oh yeah, act like you don't know me," Moncrief laughs as he removes her fish from the hook.
"I have a good time," he said of his summer job. "If it was work, I wouldn't do it."