Summit County’s educators do more than just teach

Some own businesses while others work second jobs or otherwise give back to the community

Summit Cove Elementary School counselor Joseph Antico sits in his office Thursday, June 2, 2022. Antico is one of many Summit School District staff members who holds a second job.
Tripp Fay/For the Summit Daily News

For a majority of the school year, Summit County teachers manage around 25 students per class, create lesson plans, volunteer for extra duties, coach various sports and otherwise oversee the care of hundreds of local children. When the day is done, some retire to their homes but others — and quite possibly the vast majority of school staff — head to other jobs and commitments, all of which help create a vibrant community. 

Summit County’s teachers are not just teachers. 

Take, for instance, Summit Cove Elementary School counselor Joseph Antico. This past school year was Antico’s first at the Summit School District where he worked full time caring for students. After the first half of the school year came to a close, Antico added another title to his resume. In January, he began working as a therapist at Grit Therapy in Frisco where he sees clients in the evenings and on the weekends. 

“I wanted to get back into counseling and felt that working with kids is great, but I also am trying to get my clinical hours to become a (licensed clinical social worker),” Antico said. “(I) just wanted to expand my knowledge and help as many people as possible since there’s such a huge demand for mental health (services) here.” 

Juggling two jobs, both of which are based in the mental health field, is no easy task.

“I remind myself that you can’t help everyone and that you try to do the best that you can,” Antico said. 

In total, Antico said he spends about five to 10 hours on average per week on his Grit Therapy clients — though this workload is increasing — in addition to working 40 hours a week as a school counselor at Summit Cove. 

He’s not the only district staff member filling in a gap, either. Lisa Ferguson has worked as a tech media specialist for Upper Blue Elementary School for the past 20 years. For the last six years, she’s been providing a summer reading program for some of the school’s students. 

About 11 years ago, Ferguson’s friend asked her to work as the secretary for Far View Horse Rescue based in Fairplay. She’s worked as a volunteer at the nonprofit every Sunday since then, in addition to her role at Upper Blue. It was only when she and another district staff member noticed students were experiencing a “learning slide” over the summer months that she thought to use the nonprofit to provide them a summer reading program. 

For six years, Ferguson has hosted a free program called “Read with a Donkey.” The program runs seven days a week and teaches students in third grade and up how to care for a couple of the nonprofit’s animals. They also practice reading to one of the burros named Paquita, whom Ferguson calls their “reading donkey.”

A student reads to Paquita the donkey. Far View Horse Rescue host a summer reading program called “Read to a Donkey” to help students practice their skills during summer break.
Lisa Ferguson/Courtesy photo

The free program has continued to grow. It used to be frequented by just elementary school students, but now the program welcomes middle school students, too. There are six to 10 students that usually show up per day. 

Ferguson said that hosting the program doesn’t feel like an added burden. 

“I took this project on on my own,” Ferguson said. “I saw a need that made kids suffer from that learning slide in the summer, and it’s my contribution to getting off your devices and spending time outdoors and with a creature that you can learn to bond with.” 

Becca Spiro launched a community program meant to connect kids, as well as adults, too. Spiro is the owner of Frosted Flamingo, a mobile art studio that offers craft projects at various venues and private events. She started the business about three years ago because she saw an opportunity to connect Spanish-speaking individuals and English-speaking individuals through art. 

This past school year, Spiro decided to work part time as a world language and movement teacher at Upper Blue and Breckenridge elementary schools where she continued to flex her Spanish and art background. She said she had wanted to join the Summit School District as a teacher when she first moved to the county years ago. However, there weren’t any available openings at the time.

Though she’s not planning to return next school year, Spiro said the experience was a reminder of just how much of an impact teachers have on the community. 

“I just can’t emphasize how incredible and how much respect I have for teachers and the administration and just that I’m grateful for being on the inside for a year,” she said.

People gather around the Frosted Flamingo, a mobile art studio that offers craft projects at special events and private parties. Owner Becca Spiro worked part time as a world language and movement teacher at Upper Blue and Breckenridge elementary schools.
Becca Spiro/Courtesy photo

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