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Moonlighting : For Sanity and Extra Cash, Schoolteachers Take on Variety of Outside Work

June 04, 1987|BARBARA HOPFINGER | Hopfinger is a Canoga Park free-lance writer.

Maddie Hayes and David Addison aren't the only ones who moonlight. An estimated 40% to 50% of Los Angeles teachers make money in a variety of ways beyond their regular teaching jobs.

Although they offer a variety of reasons, ranging from creative satisfaction to stress reduction, San Fernando Valley teachers admit the main reason they moonlight is the money.

The average salary earned by a teacher in the Los Angeles school district is $28,000 a year, not including benefits. A recently approved salary increase will raise that by 10% next year.

There have been no official surveys, but Catherine Carey, director of communications for the United Teachers of Los Angeles, a union that represents 32,000 L.A. teachers, estimates that 40% to 50% of them work second jobs. These include teaching summer school, adult school, tutoring, owning their own businesses, investing in real estate or checking groceries at the local supermarket.

On weekends, evenings and school vacations, the five Valley teachers described below supplement their income by working part-time as a cantor, a shoemaker, a tour guide, a tree trimmer and a trumpet player.

Dominic Bonelli spends three evenings a week and all day Saturday in his late father's shoe-repair shop in Canoga Park. During the day, Bonelli, 34, teaches math at Roosevelt Junior High School in Glendale. His teaching salary is $31,000.

"I can make a better living at my shoe making than at school teaching," he said.

"But I must still get something out of teaching. Sometimes I wonder what. Kids don't appreciate teachers enough."

Bonelli's father was apprenticed to a shoemaker during the Depression in Ohio. When the family came to California, Bonelli's father tried selling everything from insurance to bread. But when times were hard, he returned to the craft of shoe repair.

"My dad pulled my toe every Saturday morning from grade 5 on," Bonelli recalled. "Off I went, reluctantly, to shine and repair. In high school, I had to work until 8 or 9 at night. My dad was sick."

Bonelli's father wanted all his children to go to college. "I was sure I'd never return to shoe repair again once I became a teacher," Bonelli said. Then he laughed, pointing to the row of boots in various stages of repair.

'A Tie to Past'

"My dad died in this shop this past summer, and maybe my being here is a tie to my past," he said.

Bonelli, who wears a shoemaker's blue smock and a baseball cap when he works, said he gets to see a finished product when he completes a repair on a boot. He pointed to a pair of riding boots he widened by adding a gusset. "Some of my boots have been on the feet of Olympic contenders.

"But when I teach, I'm never sure what I produce."

Bonelli never teaches during the summer. "I need my craft," he said. "Sometimes I neglect things at home to come here in the name of extra money. I think my wife sees right through me."

Akiva Harris talks to trees. Before he trims them, the 56-year-old math teacher from Westlake Village explains to them that although the process may be painful, they will be healthier.

At Cleveland High School in Reseda, Harris gives the school district's tree trimmers unsolicited advice and evaluations.

"I'm not a butcher with a chain saw who removes foliage," he said. "Remember, I trim trees. I've read a lot of books about my job and even took an intensive tree-trimming seminar at UCLA."

Harris, who wears a salt-and-pepper beard and mustache that make him look like a gentle woodsman, has taught school for 28 years. He said tree trimming, which he does on weekends and during the summer, is physically exhausting, but not stressful.

"In teaching I expend psychological and emotional energy--even with the best kid. I see 140 distinct personalities every day," he said.

Two Motivations

"Many of today's kids are indifferent, immature and poorly motivated. I tell the kids, 'You may be here because of your parents or your friends. I'm here because I want to get the teaching done.' "

Some Mondays, Harris said, "I must force myself to return to the classroom. But once I'm there, I lose my resistance. I enjoy the kids. When one comes back and tells me I'm the best teacher he ever had, I know I'm in the right profession."

Harris earns $36,500 as a teacher. Last year he made $2,157 trimming trees.

"The toughest part of tree trimming is giving a good estimate," said Harris. I lose 10% of my bids. But that's not important. When you don't reach a kid, that's an important loss."

Gerald Gediman earns $37,000 a year teaching fifth grade at Justice Street Elementary School in Canoga Park. During school vacations and summer recesses, Gediman is a Permanent Intermittent Historical Tour Guide at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

Gediman describes Hearst Castle with a gleam in his eye and the practiced cadence of a seasoned tour guide: "It's perched 1,600 feet above sea level, and you can see 20 miles of sea coast with no structures in sight."

He got the job through a classified ad.

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