Teachers working summer jobs

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 8, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — For teachers like Desi Weber-Neal, the summer isn’t much different than the school year. They wake up, get ready and head to work.
The only difference is they aren’t showing up to a school.
During the week, you’ll find Weber-Neal, a first-grade teacher at Rockwell Elementary, working as a director at Grace Bible Church’s summer camps. On the weekends, you might see her picking up a shift as a waitress at the High Rock Boat and Ski Club.
She said her family can make ends meet without the income that her summer jobs bring in, but the extra cash always come in handy.
“It definitely helps stretch my teaching salary,” she said.
Weber-Neal said she tucks some of the money she earns away for a family vacation and saves the rest for unexpected bills that pop up throughout the year.
“There is always something that needs to be paid,” she said.
But Weber-Neal said her job with the church is less about the money and more about the satisfaction.
“I get so much joy from working with the kids that it doesn’t even feel like work,” she said. “
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Michelle Whitson, a fifth-grade teacher at Woodleaf Elementary, spends most of her summer working as a teller at F&M Bank.
She said the job helps her and husband, Brian, a science teacher at Salisbury High School, pay the bills and leaves a little leftover for travel to see family in the mountains.
“With gas and groceries and everything else going up, teachers are having to find a way to stay in the job that they want to do,” she said.
And Whitson said teaching is definitely her passion. She had been working full-time at F&M before she decided to go back to school to become a teacher.
After graduating and landing a job, Whitson realized she was going to have to do something to supplement her income since she took a pay cut to become a teacher. She doesn’t just work at the bank during the summer, she also fills in during breaks from school.
But Whitson said she doesn’t mind.
“The bank is a great place to work and I enjoy staying on a bit of a schedule,” she said.
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For the past five years, Ashley Overcash, a kindergarten teacher at Granite Quarry Elementary, held two additional jobs year-round. She worked in the child care center at First Baptist Church on Wednesday nights and as a dispatcher for Rowan County 911.
Overcash let go of her job with the church this year, but continues to fill in with Rowan County 911. She typically works a 12-hour shift on the weekend and picks up a shift from 6 p.m. to midnight during the week as needed.
“I didn’t have trouble making ends meet because I was still living with my mom, but if I wanted to do anything other than work I had to have some extra money,” she said.
Overcash said it’s logical she has to work an extra job. As a teacher, she works 10 months and gets paid for those 10 months.
“It’s not that the pay is so awful,” she said. “I have them pull a portion out of my check every month to pay me at the end of June and July so it makes it slimmer during the year.”
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Debbie Martin, an allied health sciences teacher at East Rowan High, also works year-round as a nurse at Rowan-Regional Medical Center.
“The extra income helps pay the bills, but it also helps me keep my skills sharp,” she said.
She’s been working at the hospital on the weekends, after school and during the summer for more than 12 years.
For a while, Martin said the money she earned at the hospital went to her “mad money” fund to save for additional animals and upgrades to her farm, but that’s no longer the case.
“With the cost of living going up it is being used to make ends meet,” she said.
Though the money helps cover family finances, Martin still enjoys the work.
“I just really love patient care,” she said.
And with the medical field constantly changing, Martin said her work at the hospital allows her to stay up-to-date. Her students also get to see her in action during their clinicals.
“They see me lifting, feeding and bathing the patients,” she said. “It makes it a little more real for my students to see me actually interacting with patients.”
Martin said working two jobs can be a bit of a juggling act at times.
“Sometimes the hospital will call and need me and I might have a commitment at school and then I feel guilty or vice versa” she said. “Thank goodness the unit I work on has been flexible.”
Whitson said F&M Bank has also been flexible, adding her in as needed throughout the summer and giving her vacation time when she requests it.
“I love working there, the bank treats its employees like family” she said.
Overcash said she enjoys working at Rowan County 911 because during her downtime she has the opportunity to work on school work.
“I’m very appreciative to them for allowing me to do that,” she said.
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The extra money the women rake in during the summer also goes back to the classroom.
“I probably spent $2,000 out of my pocket last year,” Whitson said. “I don’t think people realize how much teachers put into their classrooms each year.”
Whitson said she buys everything from notebook paper to toner for her home copier, which she uses to run off worksheets for her students.
Weber-Neal said she buys a lot of hands-on items for her students to use throughout the year. She tries to double up by buying things like Cheerios for students to use during math as counters.
“Then they can eat them as an afternoon snack,” she said.
Overcash said she’s already spent $75 on supplies this summer.
“It’s not that the school doesn’t provide the things we need,” she said. “Unfortunately, with cutbacks, they just can’t provide everything.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.