Berkeley Teachers Have Fun in the Summertime By CASSIE NORTON

Friday August 12, 2005

Summertime provides school teachers with an opportunity that most professionals don’t have—three months to do whatever they want. 

Of course it’s never that simple; many teachers have second jobs during the summer months to supplement the income of a public school teacher, while others take required classes to complete credential requirements and to stay current in their fields. 

But there are many teachers who use June, July and August in much the same way their students do. They travel to exotic places or just to the next state, spend time with their families, read the new Harry Potter book and generally relax.  

For Berkeley High teachers Matt Fritzinger and Nat Lewis, summer is the time to pursue the things they love out of the classroom. 

For Fritzinger, summer is the time of year when he can devote himself full-time to the NorCal Mountain Bike Series, which he founded four years ago. He has shifted to teaching part-time to serve as executive director of the NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League. 

In his second year at Berkeley High, Fritzinger started a mountain biking club, called the Soaring Ducks, and in 2001 he opened a summer biking camp with three kids. This year 60 children took part in the camp. 

“The programs have grown over the years, and teaching has sort of fallen by the wayside,” he said. 

Fritzinger said he created the NorCal Mountain Bike Series to provide an outlet for competitive high school mountain biking clubs and teams. According to their website, in the first series mountain bikers from schools all over Northern California came “to compete as semi-organized high school teams.” 

Now over a dozen schools offer riding programs that operate much like traditional high school sports, participating in a season consisting of six races plus winter and summer riding camps. The league, and Fritzinger, are seeking new teams. 

Lewis, a friend of Fritzinger’s and a colleague in the school’s math department, spends his summer in a somewhat more traditional way for a teacher. 

“I relax,” he said. “The school year is so packed with stuff—I get up, go to school, come home, make dinner, put the kids to bed, go to bed myself and then go to school again.” 

For him, summer is a time to spend with his girls, ages 6 and 8, and with his wife, Nydia McGregor, a graduate student at UC Berkeley. 

It’s also a time to pursue his art. Lewis has been working with found objects for over 15 years and has had several gallery shows in Sacramento. His garage/studio overflows with pieces both finished and not and all the accouterments.  

“I work with mechanical parts, mostly. I like to take apart old typewriters,” he said. “Berkeley is a fun place to be, because people leave bric-a-brac by the side of the road. I’m one of those people who goes digging through your trash to find my treasures.” 

He also uses his spare time to practice the guitar he plays with Angel Band. The group plays mostly bluegrass and early American folk music, Lewis said. 

It’s not all relaxing in the park and strumming the guitar, though. Lewis said he sometimes feels like he’s still working part-time, taking classes to meet advanced credential requirements, meeting with UC Berkeley professors to rework his curriculum and consulting with a textbook company. 

But the work doesn’t get in the way of the fun. 

“I read the latest Harry Potter book, which sort of forced me to slow down. And then I read the previous three,” he said.