School is back in session for lots of children by now. What about the teachers? What do they do during the summer vacation? Some are busy with their families, some take the time to get more education (teachers are required to get in so many hours of continued education), some plan to travel on extended trips, some farm or garden, some do a lot of reading and some have summer jobs to make some extra money. What ever they do I imagine the summer passes all too quickly. Even though they are glad to get back into the routine, the summer is over before they are half through their summer goals.
But let me tell you about a fifth grade teacher from Iowa named Janet Berkenbosch who we know as Berk. She first came as a college student in a work group for one week several years in a row. Then in the summer of 1985 we needed extra help especially on the farm so she came the whole summer months. She is from a farm family in Iowa—a dairy farm so she has a lot of farm savvy and vocabulary. She also was a teacher by that time so she fitted right in with our many Lend-A-Hand activities and programs. She was willing to help with college and high school work groups. She would take a group of five or six to build fences, paint houses inside and out, do repair work, garden, preserve food, milk cows, feed animals, work in the corn and hay fields, etc.
Two weeks in the summer we had Day Camp at the Center which was a mixture of Bible school, recreation and crafts. Often Berk was expected to set an example at the meal time to get her clean plate award even if it was something she would have preferred to not eat; there were the two bites at least that was necessary if she were to have a clean plate or get seconds. And there was always driving the kids; they had to be picked up at their homes. That often meant she did not get back from taking children home until dark and in July that makes for a long day indeed.
There was plenty of things to help us with when we did not have Day camp or Work Groups. There are always plenty of things on a farm to keep busy as well as normal yard work. We did garden a variety of vegetables so there was lots of tilling, hoeing and weeding. Then we preserved lots of food in canning and freezing. We also farmed about thirty acres of hay and corn for our neighbors in sharecropping to have the necessary feed for our dairy cows, goats, hogs, sheep, rabbits, and fowl such as chickens, duck, turkeys and geese. She even learned how to get down off of live ducks and geese. Oh, there were plenty of ways she could and did help as well as live with so many of us.
I could share many stories of making work fun but there are times we have to say good bye—time to go back to your fifth graders and a paying job. And that time is this week as we struggled to get our projects finished. We look forward to summer “vacation” time next summer. And that is what one teacher has done for so many summers.