Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

July 30, 2013

Top 7 Ways Educators Are Spending Their Summer Vacation


Q: How are you spending your summer vacation?

There’s a common perception that teachers have a lot of downtime. (Entire summers, in fact!) At the Milken Family Foundation, we decided to put this notion to the test by turning that age old back-to-school question back on them. 82 teachers, principals, administrators and superintendents in the Milken Educators Network responded and we tallied their answers.

Here are the Top 7 answers we received…


#7: Researching and Incorporating New Standards

As education policy and the needs of the student body change, teachers use their summer to study and figure out how to implement the latest standards into their classrooms including:

  • Common Core State Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards
  • New Teacher Evaluation methods


“I read up on anything current going on—Common Core, Block Scheduling/ Differentiated Instruction, and Response to Intervention/Instruction. I do best when I read professional materials over the summer. I have time to digest and think. Nothing beats poolside reading, even if it is Common Core related.”

— Jennifer B. Smith (CA ’06)


#6:  Training on New Technologies

The digital revolution irrevocably changed the way we live. Whether it’s tablets, laptops, mobile phones or spreadsheets, before they can bring the latest technology into the classroom—teachers have to explore how to use them effectively to bring learning to life for students of all ages.

“I have 32 iPads in my science classroom for the second year now and need to choose effective apps for my students to use for research, reinforcing information, current events, and motivating activities related to physical science.”

— Sue Nielsen (MN ’01)


#5: Collaborating with Other Educators

Whether district superintendents, principals or classroom teachers, educators know that it takes a great team to deliver the best education. So it came as no surprise that a large percentage of our respondents are spending their summer “vacation” working with others to institute new ideas and best practices.

“This summer I have had the opportunity to work on a committee to strengthen our math, reading and writing curriculums.  I am excited to share weekly math presentations which include fantastic hands-on activities.”

— Peggy Rogers (ID ’04)


#4:  Reviewing and Refining Curricula

It’s hard to turn a ship around mid-stream, so while their classrooms are docked for the summer, educators are evaluating their own practices, incorporating lessons they’ve learned from their own results as well as from outside input on national, state, district and school levels.

"Exploring new teaching practices is critical to entering each new year with a fresh, new perspective; continually reinventing oneself is vital for teachers and students alike. I've heard it put this way before: ‘A teacher should strive to have 30 years of great teaching, NOT one year of great teaching 30 times.’”

— Corey Oliver (AR ’07)


#3:  Going Back to School!

Great teachers strive to do more than just teach students a lesson, they hope to inspire a lifetime of learning. So why would they be any different? This summer, teachers are going back to school to continue their professional development, work towards their next degree, study the latest teaching methodologies and more.

“For the third summer I have taken an internship with Wright Patterson Air Force Base Research Laboratory's Gaming Research Integration for Learning Laboratories.  I work with engineers, research scientists, educators and outstanding math and science students to produce high school STEM curriculum.  I then get to implement that curriculum when school starts in the fall.  It is an extraordinary learning experience.”

— Kimberly Puckett (OH '01)


#2: Reading, Reading and Reading

In addition to taking classes, teachers take the summer to catch up on their reading. Not quite your usual summer sizzler beach fare, our teachers are reading articles, studies and books that will impact how they structure their lessons and reinvigorate their passion for teaching.

“Focusing on a positive piece of literature tends to slow my mind down a little, and helps remind me of all the wonderful reasons I chose teaching as a profession. The teaching environment can be very stressful to say the least. Between applying new strategies, meeting the needs of the individual learner, or even implementing new curriculum, teachers can often become overwhelmed. Reading inspirational literature can recharge our minds and hearts and help us focus on the incredible moments in the classroom that are not celebrated enough.”

— Michael Berndt (KS ‘12)


#1:  Recharging with Some “ME” Time with Family and Friends

In between all of the activities of answers 2-7, some educators actually do manage to take a little time for themselves to rest, reconnect with their families and recharge.
It may be the most selfish thing they do all year, but for anything but selfish reasons.

“Teaching is such a time consuming job that to balance it all can be a challenge. My boys make sacrifices throughout the year because I am a teacher (Back to School Nights, weekend workshops, late night parent conferences, and after-school-hour special programs for our students that need teacher volunteers)…So I try to give back some of that Mommy and Me time to them during summer. It’s important for teachers to also take time for themselves. We give so much of ourselves during the school year, that we need this short break to regroup, reflect, and reenergize so that we are ready for the school year ahead.”

— Jane Fung (CA ‘02)


That rounds out our Top 7, but it wasn't an easy list to whittle down. We had many great responses ranging from visiting with the families of new students, to advice on how to balance work and life. Most of our respondents are doing a combination of several of the above. Read more of their insights on the following page.

More answers from Milken Educators >>


Are you an educator? Share how you're spending your summer vacation in the comments below.



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  • So far this Summer, I took a vacation with family that I had to do school work during because I am taking 2 graduate classes. I am changing schools and grade levels and the state I am in has just adopted new math standards, so I am working to get some great lessons planned. I have already seen some great things to buy for my classroom and snagged them before the other dedicated teacher pawing through all the bins could get to them. This is my first Summer Break (I will be starting my 2nd year teaching next year) so I have been reflecting and re-evaluating my classroom management strategies for next year. I will be going on a camping trip soon (Yay! true relaxation), though my final days of Summer will be taken with final presentations for the classes I am taking and with 5th grade registration. I'm sure once I get a classroom assignment I will also be working to set up my new classroom and all of this is during my time "off"

    Posted by Heather, 17/07/2015 11:25am (8 years ago)

  • How appropriate that this article came out the same week I am collaborating and learning with 150 other educators who chose and paid to spend their last week of summer vacation on #7, 5, 4, 3, and 2! We are not only teachers this week, but we are engineers and scientists as well. Teachers continue to teach and learn year-round! Summer just allows us more opportunities to spread our wings in different directions!

    Posted by Jane Fung, 01/08/2013 9:32pm (10 years ago)

  • Visiting an excellent elementary school in The Gambia, West Africa that was still in session. I met brilliant children, most of them fluent and literate in three languages; English, French, and Wolof. Home stay in Dakar, Senegal. There were four boys and one girl in the family. The two and a half year old boy is a master at "Angry Birds." The first thing he says to his mom when he wakes up in the morning is, "Give me your cell phone."

    Posted by Linda Alston (CO '94), 31/07/2013 9:43pm (10 years ago)

  • Teaching summer school and working hard on a new way to implement RtI in our school. Weather in Chicago has been a bit of a challenge but always happy to spend a day at the beach whenever possible!

    Posted by Margaret Reynolds, 31/07/2013 2:36pm (10 years ago)

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