Vocation or Avocation

by | Mar 8, 2024 | Gary's Blog

a reintroduction

Vocation or Avocation
Before I was the CEO and President of Safeguard Risk Solutions and the creator of the Mobile Emergency Response Plan, I was an Educator and a Police Officer.

I originally wrote this article for a recent presentation for the employees of the Village of Plain City, Ohio.  I am pleased to share it as a reintroduction to who I am, and how my background provides my clients unique expertise from the perspective of an Educator and a First Responder.

I was already eight years into my teaching career.  I had a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership.  I was tracking to move from the classroom teacher to a building administrator. 

Instead, I took a position as a police officer for a suburb in my county.

to call, to summon away  | Latin

In Ohio, agencies can hire auxiliary officers.  For my agency, it meant I was a sworn officer with arrest powers, but I was not paid when I worked.  During the school year, I taught Monday through Friday and then worked as a patrol officer on Saturday, usually second shift.  During the summer, I worked patrol more often.  I know that in 2024 people would never understand working as a police officer for free.  It was Whitehall Police Chief Jim Stacey who reminded us that working as an auxiliary was not our vocation but our avocation. 

A vocation is the work you do because you have to; an avocation is what you do for pleasure, not pay.  The ancient Latin root is avocare: a calling away from one’s work, or a distraction. I began working the streets when crack was starting to take hold in our communities.  As an eighth-grade science teacher, going from teaching the periodic table to young teens to arresting drug dealers was certainly a distraction from my normal routine.

Educator by Day
Police Officer by Night

Eventually I moved to agencies that used part-time officers.  There were more duties and responsibilities, but I was paid for my hours.  When I started as a paid officer, I was making $8.50/hour to work patrol. We supplemented our low wages with special duty work at places like banks, high school sporting events, and movie theaters.

One of the real advantages of working part-time at an agency was the ability to take training outside of the mandated CPTs necessary to keep our law enforcement certifications.  Because I was still teaching, I took whatever training I could that was related to school safety. It was this training, combined with my law enforcement experience and teaching that led to my promotion to district safety director.

I retired from education in 2012.  I still hold a police commission, but I no longer work in patrol.  I am a teacher again.  I am a trainer for my agency, and I do community outreach.  I’ve developed teen driving programs, women’s safety courses, and parent education programs.  There is often a crossover between the training I do for my business and what I do for the community and recently, for the employees of Plain City.  Recently, I did a Workplace Violence/Active Threat training for all city employees.

When people ask me which job I liked better, education or law enforcement, I have to say education.  I am a teacher by trade.  It has been a long time since I drove a patrol car and as much as I liked working the streets, I do not miss the hours or the grind.  But even before I retired from education and went from teacher to administrator, I missed being in the classroom with my students.  I still consider myself a teacher, but today I work with adult learners in education, healthcare, and business instead of teens in a science lab. 
Combining my vocation with my avocation has made for a rewarding career.

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