Teach hard, work hard
The Dart takes a look at what STA faculty members are doing in their not-so-free time.
February 15, 2016
It’s a Thursday. Mr. Fast and Mr. Sanem make their way to a room full of expectant students. They’ve met up before class to prepare discussion questions. They’ve closely read and examined the section of the book they’re about to teach their students. But the students aren’t sitting on the third floor of M&A. The students aren’t wearing tartan skirts or untucked polo shirts with “STA” embroidered on. These students are actually a group of women, ranging from their forties to their nineties, taking a “Great Books” sort of course from theology teacher Michael Sanem and English teacher Kelly Fast.
Fast and Sanem aren’t the only teachers engaging in employment outside of STA. In addition to teaching sophomores at STA, English teacher Stephen Himes runs his own real estate practice and works in the fields of education and desegregation law. After English teacher Maura Lammers grades papers at STA, she might just go spend another few hours working at Anthropologie, a clothing store located on the Country Club Plaza.
For Sanem and Fast, their “Great Books” class is both an extra source of income and a fulfilling time for discussion.
“I mean, I love literature so it’s a really nice thing to do outside of work,” Fast said. “It is work, it requires time and effort to plan it and read, but it’s really enjoyable. It’s worth it once you get the reading done, but the reading is worth it too.”
Sanem agrees that the time he puts in is worth it, grateful to have enriching conversations and challenging reading.
Fast and Sanem meet with a core group of eight to ten “cultured ladies” once a week for periods of six weeks, three times per year. Fast began teaching the course about ten years ago, when Village University invited him. Sanem joined about a year ago, when Fast approached him, thinking he could bring valuable new perspectives to the table. The two each spend around five to seven hours per week preparing materials for the hour and a half long class.
Although STA students have never signed up for the course, Fast says there is some crossover in the curriculum from his Village University course to the STA content he teaches. Additionally, his Village University students bring valuable new perspectives to the content that would otherwise not be explored.
“Many of the books I teach [at Village University], I teach in my AP class,” Fast said. “There were also things that they, as older people, said about the book that maybe students didn’t think about or I didn’t think about, since I teach younger students most of the time.”
photos by Cassie Hayes
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For Himes, the crossover from his real estate and law practice to his time in the classroom falls not so much in the content, but more in the critical thinking they both require. When Himes is presenting at conferences or gathering clients for his “boutique real estate practice,” he finds that his main strength is his ability to “take the complicated thing and make it understandable.”
As far as his background in law, Himes attended law school at the University of Kansas, but discovered there was a huge lack of jobs in the law field due to the 2007 recession.
“This is how bad it got: I was a bar-certified attorney with six years of experience as a high school gifted program coordinator that had won statewide awards, substitute teaching in a school district because I couldn’t find a job,” Himes said. “And there were a lot of us that were in that boat. “
Although finding a job in the field of law was challenging, Himes still had his background in education to fall back on. A few years later, he discovered a loophole in Missouri law that facilitated the process of getting a real estate broker’s license for bar-certified lawyers. When he was looking to buy a house, he simply took the test to make the process more convenient, then learned about the different facets of the business and stuck with it, still teaching full time.
For Himes, real estate “used to be an extra job,” but he now enjoys the many different facets of it. However, a main reason for his outside employment is financial.
“I only do a few transactions a year because I have my other job that I’m still doing,” Himes said. “So the money that I make off [real estate] I use to pay down student loans, for a little bit of vacation money, that kind of thing… I’m not so prepared to do it full time.”
While modern technology has facilitated both Himes’ real estate broker and agent duties, allowing him to complete transactions and interact with customers even from different time zones, he “only has so much time.”
“At a certain point, you have to kind of decide who you are, because I have about nine different ideas in my head of what I would like to do, but I know I can’t do it all,” Himes said.
Although he spends substantial amounts of time outside the classroom on other projects and employment, teaching remains Himes’ forte.
“I feel like even when I’m in law world and real estate world, I primarily see myself as a classroom practitioner,” Himes said. “I don’t know that I’ll ever fully be able to get away from that.”
Just like Himes can never fully get away from teaching, Lammers can never fully escape STA at her job at Anthropologie. Lammers has frequent run-ins with both students and teachers at her retail job. Over the summer, she even met a student who would later end up in her advisory for the majority of a semester.
Like Himes, Fast and Sanem, Lammers’ primary motivation for having an outside job is for financial purposes, but she feels lucky that she enjoys the atmosphere at her work.
“It just gives me a peace of mind, not just to work here, but to have another job where I can count on getting extra hours, where it’s an hourly wage, but it’s a job that I like,” Lammers said. “Ideally, it would be nice to not have to have this job for the next couple of years, but luckily, I enjoy it, so it’s not something where I feel like I’m wasting my time.”
While having an extra job is at times a challenge for Lammers, taking away her free time and making it more challenging to plan ahead for teaching, she says the community at Anthropologie makes up for some of those challenges.
“Last semester, I was so busy with teaching and working at [Anthropologie] that I didn’t really get to spend a lot of time with my family or with my other friends, so I was really grateful about my Anthropologie team,” Lammers said. “They were my friends and I got to talk to them about my stress and things that were bothering me or that I was worried about. I really like the environment there, it’s not just people selling clothes, it’s kind of a support system for me.”
Lammers, Himes, Fast and Sanem are four teachers who have stories to tell about their jobs outside of STA. However, according to Sanem, more teachers than one might assume engage in outside employment. Because of the prominence, Sanem believes that the topic of teachers’ outside jobs is not only relevant, but an important topic to address at a high school like STA.
“I think it’s good [The Dart is covering] this story,” Sanem said. “Because I know that a lot of teachers, by necessity, have to do this.”