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Published July 19 2010

When school’s out, second jobs start for teachers

In the sweltering summer days, West Fargo teacher Mike Preston is busy pouring concrete, not vacationing.

For nearly three months of the year, his summer job takes him far from his high school classroom.

“I think a majority of the public believes as soon as (teachers are) done with school, they go to the lakes or go golfing,” he said. “Very few people pull the plug when school gets out.”

In fact, when school resumes next month, many local teachers will have spent their summer working second jobs – from tutoring and teaching to seasonal work.

In 2005, 37 percent of teachers in the country received an income from summer jobs – non-school or school-related – according to the National Education Association.

“Most of the teachers I know work,” said Kim Belgarde, the president of the Fargo teachers association who also uses summer to teach and help run a camp for children with cancer.

For West Fargo teacher Andrea Noonan, it’s not just work that makes it difficult to fit a vacation into her summer.

The 29-year-old works up to 32 hours a week serving drinks at Paradiso Mexican Restaurant in Fargo while also juggling graduate classes and teaching summer school.

“I guess I wouldn’t mind a vacation,” she said. “(But) it’s good money – helps pay the mortgage.”

For other teachers, working non-teaching jobs in the summer gives work a temporary change of pace.

Fargo social studies teacher Beth Ekre helps her parents with their Park Rapids, Minn., strawberry farm. Fellow Fargo middle school teacher Mark Stack runs a lawn-care company. Art teacher Barb Nagle paints and sells art.

“A lot of people think we get paid for the three months we’re not working; we’re not,” said Nagle, who, after nine months of teaching art, relishes the chance to do the craft she loves. “I do my art pretty much every day when I’m on vacation.”

Near Pelican Rapids, Minn., Fargo science teacher Rob Jacobson trades teaching for operating a resort.

“At the lake, it’s work, but it’s different work,” he said of managing and maintaining five cabins. “It’s been a labor of love.”

Now, as summer and the seasonal work wind down, teachers like Preston will prepare to return to the classroom after an already busy summer.

“Am I jealous of people who don’t have to work every day and go golf? Yes, I am,” Preston said. “You don’t have the time off that people think you do.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515