Teachers with Second Jobs

Extended Version of the Article Published in Print


photo courtesy of Katie Russel

Ms. Russel on the job at the Eden Prairie Fire Department

Anna Gratzer, features editor

In addition to teaching various subjects at Edina High School, many faculty members enjoy working at their unique and interesting second jobs. Below, several answer questions on their other occupations away from their teenage students and the crowded halls of EHS.


Zephyrus: What is your second job? Please describe it.

Nate Murphy: My second job is working for a company called Learners Edge as a course evaluator.  Learners Edge is an online school for teachers to earn special certifications and get continuing education credits for their licensures.  My job is to evaluate the assignments and presentations (like creating Prezis, screencasts and Google Slides) and give them feedback.  I evaluate three courses.  Two are dealing with using technology in education and one is specifically for math teachers and ways to teach it effectively.

Z: What is your favorite part of it? Least favorite part?

N.M.: My favorite part of it is getting to see the projects that teachers create for different classes and grade levels than what I teach.  Some teachers have some great ideas and are very creative.  It’s also fun interacting with teachers all over the world.  For example I currently have one teacher taking a course from Brazil and another from Japan. My least favorite part is actually the Math course. The other two classes I get to look at presentations and see the teachers use their creativity.  The math one is just reading their responses and how they may use the concepts in their classroom.  It’s very dry and boring.   


Z: When you were in high school, what was your dream job?

N.M.: When I was in high school I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I was too busy hanging out with friends and playing video games.  I never would have thought I’d end up teaching though.

Z: What else do you enjoy doing outside of school?

N.M.: I love being outdoors and spending time with my wife and kids.  I enjoy indoor rock climbing, shooting pool, and watching sports like the UFC, hockey, and football.


Z: Is there anything else you would like to add?

N.M.: I am just one example of many teachers in this school that make sacrifices for their families.  Teaching is not a career that will pay well, especially if you have a family and all the financial needs that comes with having kids.  You definitely don’t teach for the money, you do it because you love working with kids.  I have friends that make twice what I make, but have to travel and miss out on watching their kids grow up.  I may never make what they do and be able to provide all the extras, but I get to be actively involved in my family.  This second job allows me to have some extra money to do some extra little things, but it doesn’t take away from my time with my family.  Those memories can’t be replaced with a dollar sign.


Z: Do you enjoy working as a firefighter? Why?

Katie Russell: I do. It’s very different from my teaching job. There are no papers to grade and there’s a lot of potential for improvisation and quick thinking. When people call 911 it’s because they or a friend or loved one is having a very bad time for whatever reason. I get to contribute to making things better for them. It’s a really fun job too. You get to know the other firefighters well because you spend a lot of time together on shift and at training, so they become almost like a second family.


Z: What is your least favorite part? Favorite part?

  1. R.: Training can sometimes be my least favorite part – it can be boring at times or in contrast sometimes very mentally and physically challenging. I spend every Thursday night at fire training so it’s very time consuming as well. It’s hard to choose just one favorite, but I really enjoy driving the truck and being the one responsible for getting the crew to the scene of the emergency safely and making sure the truck is pumping water when there’s a fire.


Z: How do you overcome being nervous when you know that you are going to be responding to a difficult call?

  1. R.: Our training really helps us be able to anticipate what to expect so that we can be calm when we arrive. I also pray a lot on the way to a call, because I know that ultimately I’m not the one in control.


Z: How do you compare it to teaching? Which do you prefer? Why?

  1. R.: Firefighting is very different from teaching. It’s a lot more exciting and more physically demanding. Teaching math can become very mundane and routine-oriented. Working on shift at the fire station can become mundane too when we aren’t getting any calls but once we do get a call for an emergency, every call is different. I enjoy both jobs for different reasons. I like teaching math because I like how math has a very logical and reasonable order to things and I enjoy breaking problems down to help students understand. Firefighting requires you to work as a team and maintain safety for you and your crew at all times. And each scene is different. We might be cutting a person out of a car in an accident on 494 and then 10 minutes later tracking down which apartment had a smoke detector go off in an apartment building. Then the next call might be going to a house and monitoring for carbon monoxide for a family who’s alarm went off. And then the next call might be giving CPR to someone who collapsed. You just never know what’s going to happen and we always have to be ready to help. There’s no way I could put one job over the other. I enjoy them both and am glad I can do both.


Z: When you were younger, what was your dream job?

  1. R.: I wanted to be either an astronaut or an architect.


Z: Do you have a favorite memory when working as a firefighter?

  1. R.: I have 2 instances I can share: The first time I did CPR on a real person instead of a dummy was on my birthday. The patient had a seizure disorder and had a seizure in the middle of the night and stopped breathing. The patient’s boyfriend had to leave her to go knock on a neighbor’s door because they couldn’t afford a phone – he had the neighbor call 911 at 3am. He later reported that it took several tries before anyone responded to his knocking. Those moments could have meant the difference between life and death. My crew and I, 2 police officers and 2 paramedics did CPR on her for 30 minutes trying to get her back but she didn’t make it. That incident will always be with me to remind me how fortunate I am and how precious life is. Another incident involved a woman who drove off the road, bust through a guardrail, and went down a steep hill. She needed us to come get her because her bumpy ride down the hill had caused some injuries including a broken leg. My crew happened to be all women that night with me driving, my lieutenant as the officer of the truck and a rookie firefighter riding in the back. The rookie firefighter and was very nervous about this being her first time doing something other than at training. She was also nervous the patient would be able to recognize her lack of skill. I reassured the firefighter to follow our lead and do what she’s been taught in training, and that the patient simply needed help and wouldn’t care what her level of experience was, just that she needed us to get her up the hill safely to an ambulance. We used our skills from training getting her out of the car without injuring her further, used our equipment to wheel her up the hill with minimal effort on our part and the ambulance took care of her from there. This incident helps me remember that when I’m responding as a firefighter to whatever emergency situation I’m presented with that it’s not about me, it’s about our crew working as a team to help and provide care to whoever is in front of us. The public is counting on us to show up and get them out of whatever situation they are in; they are counting on us to make things better. My ability to remain calm, think clearly, and work as  team in those situations is why I do the job and why the job is so rewarding.


Z: What do you and the other firefighters do while you’re waiting for a call?

  1. R.: I’m usually grading papers and catching up on personal and work emails. In the wintertime, many of us pull our cars into the station and wash our cars. Many times we watch movies or sports on TV. We also have station duties to perform on shift on occasion so sometimes we have to clean the station, check over the trucks and equipment. Sometimes we go to neighborhoods and visit if they are having a block party. Sometimes we assist the boy scouts if they have an egg drop.


Z: How tall is the tallest ladder in the station?

  1. R.: The longest ladder we have is a 100-foot ladder on our truck called Tower 41. On our engines, the longest ladder is 36 feet.


Z: Have you ever saved a cat that was stuck in a tree?

  1. R.: I personally have not but I know my department has on several occasions. There have been a few recent rescues which made the news of dogs and deer that were saved from icy lakes.


Z: Is there anything else you would like to add?

  1. R.: Fire safety and prevention is another major component of the job. We always encourage homeowners to have an evacuation plan, to practice it, and to check smoke detectors semi-annually. Also, carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory 10 feet from every bedroom. Make sure you test those regularly too.


Z: What is your second job? Please describe it below.

Sally Larkins: I teach Jazzercise classes at the Edina Jazzercise Center 3-4 times a week.


Z: How did you start doing working as a Jazzercise instructor?

  1. L.: I started going to Jazzercise classes in high school with my mom. I had to take a break during college because there wasn’t a Jazzercise studio in Northfield, but I picked it up again when I started working at EHS and realized there was a studio just a couple minutes away from school. About a year ago, one of the instructors suggested that I audition to be a instructor, so I spent the summer training and passed the instructor test this September.


Z: Do you ever see any students at Jazzercise? Parents or relatives of students?

S.L.: There are quite a few EHS moms who take class at the studio where I teach. I’ve seen EHS students there once in a blue moon. This fall, two of my AP World Lit students (Casey Robinson and Ellie Bender), came to class dressed in full 80s aerobics gear. It was amazing.


Z: What’s your favorite part of it? Least favorite part?

S.L.: It’s the perfect combination of an energy boost and a stress reliever. I love dancing and I love music, so Jazzercise is the perfect exercise for me. No least favorite part. Seriously, it’s one of my favorite things in the world.


Z: Which do you prefer: teaching Jazzercise or teaching English class? In what ways are they similar and different?

S.L.: Jazzercise is all about telling people exactly what to do, whereas I see my job as an English teacher being about helping people discover and express their own opinions. But I guess in both jobs, I’m trying to motivate my students to push themselves. Jazzercise involves a lot more Spandex than teaching English.


Z: What is your favorite song in your Jazzercise routine?

S.L.: I have so many favorites, and we get new ones every two months. Some current faves are the routines to “Confident” by Demi Lovato and “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber.


Z: What is the funniest outfit you’ve ever seen at Jazzercise?

S.L.: Gotta say Casey and Ellie’s outfits were pretty amazing. It was super impressive to see Ellie dance for an hour in Crocs!


Z: Is there anything else you would like to add?

S.L.: Come take a class with me! Check out http://jcls.jazzercise.com/facility/jazzercise-edina-fitness-center for the location and class times!