Great Ideas: What Will You Do This Summer?

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One Catholic school’s faculty shares summer vacation ideas

By Carmen Lagalante

All of this summer’s Great Ideas come from my own colleagues at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, California. I polled my coworkers, seeking their wisdom on what they do during the summer to come back refreshed in the fall. I asked: “What do you do during the summer to grow personally, professionally, or spiritually?” I love that the teachers’ answers are as diverse as they are!

Patrick Holligan, our former dean of students and now one of our personal counselors, was prompt to reply:

“Daily Mass and rosary.”

Our vice-president of Mission and Faith offered a more detailed account. Patrick Reidy explains:

I started doing two-to-three-day retreats the first week of summer, and I couldn’t believe how much it changed my transition into June and July. What has helped me most is to have a daily plan of life, a schedule that combines daily prayer, exercise, study, and work projects. For several summers, I would go to 6:30 a.m. Mass, pray for 30 minutes, go to the local gym and swim for 30 minutes to an hour, then head home for breakfast. By 9:00 a.m. I was ready to tackle the project of the day (painting the house, remodeling my upstairs, gardening, or errands). I would reserve an hour for study or class prep sometime in the afternoon. For me, this provided the perfect balance between relaxation and production, time with God and time with family and friends, summer vacation and next-year preparation.

Our current dean of students started with us as an English teacher 15 years ago. Chris Plaia shares,

“Travel with students! Even though you are with students during summer, the energy they exude while seeing places they’ve read about is amazing.”

One of our wonderful Spanish teachers, Lorena Amaro, comments:

I spend a significant amount of time informally collaborating with language teachers who were former colleagues in various public-school districts. We meet at a local restaurant to share new ideas, as well as to reflect and discuss in detail which activities or lessons were successful and which were not and why. It is very refreshing to be able to do this during the summer months to plan for the upcoming school year. The teachers I collaborate with use different textbooks in their respective school districts. Therefore, our group collaboration helps each of us to keep our curriculum fresh. We focus on sharing information on lessons, practice activities, reading materials, listening exercises, music, projects, and more that have already been proven by our peers. In addition, we discuss new strategies for presenting the same content in an age-appropriate and culturally relevant manner.

Tom Smith, chair of the world language department, offers his summer plan:

During the summer I usually travel to Germany where I stay for about six weeks. I renew my efforts to maintain or regain fluency in German, which helps me enjoy the culture and make new acquaintances. I spend quality family time with my in-laws and attend Mass in German.

The chair of the science department, Dana Darling, tries to stay away from anything school-related.

During last year’s summer vacation, I did very little schoolwork: only the week before school opened and the two times I proctored tests for incoming students testing into Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes.

I spent most of my time June till mid-July remodeling [my house], removing carpets, putting down wooden floors and new baseboards, and painting the walls, ceilings, and crown molding. I also researched solar energy and decided to have solar panels installed.

Mid-July till August 1st I spent time with my children and grandchildren, most of the time on the beach, swimming, building sand cities, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

Amy Hemphill, from the English department, describes her plans for lazy summer days:

My summer is spent refreshing at the beach in San Clemente: long beach trail walks with my dog, a good book (summer read), a beach chair, and time spent with my boys till the sun goes down. These moments make me appreciate the length of the day and the beauty of our local beaches.

Ron Misiow, our AP Government teacher who has taught here for almost 15 years, writes:

Personally, I spend a lot of time with my aging parents. It gives me a sense of peace, since they won’t be around for that much longer.

Spiritually, every other year I visit my parents’ homeland (Poland) to see family. While there I visit Catholic shrines, among them the Calwaria in the town of Wejherowo. I also spent time with the Sisters of Charity in the city of Gdynia. Their convent does amazing work with the homeless population and in the city hospital. I especially like to be with them during Evening Prayer if I get the chance.

Professionally, for the past two summers I have attended educational conferences, including the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) conference and the AP Summer Institute.

Whether you recharge by spending time with Our Lord, with family, with home improvements, or with other teachers, the important thing is to take care of yourself and come back with renewed energy.

Have a great idea to share? Share it with us!

When Carmen Lagalante isn’t teaching the students, she’s teaching the teachers. Find her online at

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