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Teachers express dismay over summer 'vacation'

Posted June 19

— Teachers are no strangers to questions, although there is one frequent query that some find irksome: "I suppose you're happy to have the summers off?"

Teachers have shared their dismay on blogs and social media, claiming that they do not, in fact, have the summers off.

So what exactly do teachers do over the summer?

The Jonesboro Sun (http://bit.ly/2sxCBMX ) reports that according to the Nettleton School District Assistant Superintendent Karen Kurtner, teachers may not necessarily be teaching over the summer, but they are preparing for another year to start, and they are constantly bettering themselves.

"It's not a true statement to say that teachers have June, July and August off," Kurtner said. "Teachers are spending their time preparing for the next year. They are constantly growing or planning in order to make even better lessons."

Kurtner described the teacher's summer as a time for reflection and reevaluation as to what they should do next year.

Amanda Mirafuentes, an instructional facilitator at the Visual Performing Arts Magnet School, agreed that although teachers do get some time off in the summer, they still go to workshops, prepare their classrooms and never stop working.

"On the time that I'm off, I'm brainstorming and planning, just trying to get ready for the next year," Mirafuentes said. "Even if we are off, our brains are never off."

Mirafuentes said she has six weeks off, but she will be leading workshops during two of those weeks, and she said she, like her colleagues, will be up at the school getting things ready.

Lisa Lacefield, a social studies teacher at Valley View Junior High, will be partaking in various workshops and activities over the summer, including her role as a mentor for the Arkansas Declaration of Learning. This will be Lacefield's second year of mentoring for the ADL, a three-year-old program that partners educators with museums and libraries like Crystal Bridges in Bentonville to create a unique learning experience for students.

Though the program involves collaboration and work throughout the entire year, the most laborious period is during the summer, when the selected educators meet together to do the bulk of planning and researching at a one-week summit.

Lacefield said weeks like the summit are voluntary over the summer, and teachers can attend while they have vacation time.

"Well, I am supposed to have about 10 calendar weeks off, but when you look at all the weeks I have workshops going on or that I am hosting, I have about five weeks off," Lacefield said. "It's a balance."

While teachers like Lacefield are attending workshops, other teachers like University Heights Intermediate School library media specialist Julie Barker are also continuing to learn by pursuing higher degrees of education.

Through the summer, Barker will be taking classes at UCA in order to earn her master's degree at the University of Central Arkansas. Baker said that while she is able to take one class per semester while the school year is in session, she is able to take more classes in the summer.

The summer classes are often more strenuous, Barker said, as the classes are condensed into five-week sessions, which she will be able to attend during daytime hours rather than nights or weekends. However, Barker said she prefers the summer classes as they allow her to make time for family.

"It is a bigger workload," Barker said. "However, I can work on it in the day and have time for family later."

Barker said she knows of many other teachers who are also pursuing higher degrees at various other universities during the summer.

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