Teachers and Summers

Summer’s almost here, and we all have our own plans, but many of us have wondered. "What is it that teachers do in the summer? Do they plan for the next school year, or is summer also a break for them? We all know that social studies teacher Tim Mooney will be going to Africa for a few weeks this summer, but what about the rest of them?" Well, apparently teachers have normal summers like the rest of us: relaxing, traveling, taking classes, doing research, and, in fact, planning for the next year and a bit of extra teaching. “If I could, I would just mow lawns all summer long,” science teacher Alan Junck said. “There’s something really fun about just pushing a lawn mower and not having to think at all about what you’re doing.” Unfortunately, Junck’s got other work to do. He’s teaching a chemistry course for CYTAG, a summer program for gifted and talented youngsters at ISU. “They’ll be learning a whole year of chemistry in three weeks,” said Junck, who might also be taking an environmental science or astronomy class online. Junck’s also going to be driving back and forth to Minnesota a lot to visit his father, who recently got into an accident and is in a rehab center with paralyzed legs. Junck’s fellow science teachers Mike Lazere and Craig Walter will both be participating in Academy Creating Teacher-Scientists this summer, a six-week program aimed at helping high school science teachers get involved with research. Lazere will be involved with an environmental science group that will be learning about and measuring water and soil quality. Walter will not actually be doing research this summer, but will be functioning more as a facilitator and discussion leader in a group that’s putting the finishing touches on a video game, Meta!blast. “You’ll be miniaturized and travel through plant cells in a little submarine,” Walter said. “The goal is to repair damage to the plant and learn about photosynthesis along the way.” Family time is also a major focus for those teachers who do have families. Guidance counselor Julie Bryant’s family is going to be bell-training a miniature Schnauzer they just got for one of her son’s eighth birthday. Social studies teacher Kirstin Sullivan’s family will be going to a Yankee game for her elder son’s twelfth birthday. Apart from fun and research, teachers do have some work that they’re required to do over the summer. “A lot of it is curriculum writing and compiling portfolios,” Bryant said. “We also have to take a certain number of classes every few years in order to renew our licenses.” The dedicated teachers will also get together by department and talk about what worked, what didn’t, and see what they can do to improve next year’s curriculum (an activity that’s not required of them). “Once the school year gets started, it’s like a treadmill, and there’s no time to pause and take an objective look at how things are going,” Lazere said. “Summer’s a really important time for reflection and planning.” “But really,” Lazere said, “I’m looking forward to just relaxing.”