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Mobster or mentor?:

Amid uncertainty, Vegas teachers taking unlikely jobs

Educator Daniel Avellino says without income from side job, ‘I’d be starving’


Leila Navidi

Local second-grade teacher Daniel Avellino works his second job as an actor in the Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana on Wednesday, June 8, 2011.

Updated Thursday, June 9, 2011 | 6:54 p.m.

Daniel Avellino

Local second grade teacher Daniel Avellino works his second job as an actor in the Las Vegas Mob Experience inside the Tropicana in Las Vegas Wednesday, June 8, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Map of Aggie Roberts

Aggie Roberts

227 Charter Oak St., Henderson

By day, Daniel Avellino teaches math and reading to 20 students in his second-grade class at Roberts Elementary School in Henderson.

By night, the 31-year-old is an actor at the Las Vegas Mob Experience, playing the role of a casino security guard who “beats up” alleged card cheaters in front of hundreds of tourists.

Avellino is one of a number of Clark County School District teachers who have taken up second jobs to make ends meet as the district tries to figure out how to plug a projected $150 million budget deficit next year.

“Last year, pay freeze. This year, a cut in pay. I don’t want to stick around to see what happens next year,” he said as the nine-month school year winds to an end today.

Armed with a master’s degree in elementary education, the Buffalo, N.Y., native moved to the Las Vegas Valley five years ago to pursue his teaching career. Then, Las Vegas was a boomtown, and like many institutions, the School District was experiencing growing pains.

The influx of thousands of new students necessitated more classrooms and staff, so the School District built more schools and hired young, passionate teachers such as Avellino.

“I love teaching,” he said. “I like to keep it fun and creative, so I get a little silly in the classroom … When (students) see you care about them, they’ll do all the assignments, anything.”

But the economy tanked, and Avellino became one of more than 1,000 School District teachers who were “surplused” in March to plug a projected $407 million budget deficit. Teachers whose positions were eliminated at schools where there was an excess might be hired at other schools in the district, however “it’s basically the luck of the draw,” he said.

“I knew there were massive cuts on their way, but I thought I was in jeopardy of getting a pay cut, not losing my position. I thought I was safe from harm,” he said. “I’m completely in limbo, which makes it very difficult to stay motivated to teach.”

Although additional state funding allocated last weekend staved off teacher layoffs, Avellino was still worried about proposed teacher concessions to fill the budget gap, including a 2.5 percent pay cut, freezing salary increases and passing along pension costs.

It couldn’t have come at a worse time. Avellino has $50,000 in student loans to pay back and more than $10,000 in credit card debt.

“Any disposable income I may have had has completely evaporated, and now they want to cut my pay,” said Avellino, who makes a little less than $45,000 a year as a teacher. “You can see my dilemma here: Do I stay here and do what I love to do and end up $500 in the negative each month, or do I quit and move back home?”

In December, Avellino applied to the Mob Experience at the Tropicana, working the ticket counter and acting out various roles such as an FBI agent, Irish cop, Big Leo’s soldier and warehouse gangster.

“I thought it would be an interesting job,” Avellino said. “I didn’t want to work at Wal-Mart, bar tend or anything like that. I wanted to do something that was more Vegas-esque … and have fun doing it.”

The gig brings in about $1,000 to $1,500 each month — enough to give Avellino “some breathing room,” he said.

“Without this job, I’d be starving,” he said.

Over time, Avellino hopes to turn his second job into a full-time career. He recently took another acting job playing Tony in “Tony ’n Tina’s Wedding” at Planet Hollywood, and is starting to look for an agent.

“I definitely don’t see myself in the classroom two years from now,” he said. “I chose to teach because I’m good at it, and I love it. But it’s like any job. If you’re not being treated right, you go somewhere else where they would appreciate you.”

Holding down three jobs and working more than 80 hours, six days a week comes at a price. The stress from “basically performing from 9 in the morning to 10 at night” and the lack of sleep has exacerbated Avellino’s headaches stemming from his sports-related concussions as a child, he said.

However, acting is fast becoming his second passion.

“It’s almost to the point where when people ask me what I do, I don’t say teacher anymore,” he said. “You’re embarrassed to say you’re a teacher.

“It’s heartbreaking. I feel like I’m being forced out of this position, but you can only take so much. You have to say enough is enough.”

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  1. Nevada just keeps adding itself to the bottom of lists.

    When new graduates are shopping for teaching jobs, they will soon notice the low pay and disrespect given to Nevada teachers and not even consider applying here.

    Airweave pretty much said it all.

    Teachers spend out of their pockets for their students, to maintain quality instructional delivery, and to motivate students. It would be great if parents would stop by and ask teachers what they could use in their classrooms, what could be donated to them for the students. That just about NEVER happens. How about them apples, folks?

  2. My wife is a teacher.
    She will "graduate" 33 Kindergartners today, during
    a ceremony where nearly every parent will attend, and receive a BOOK of their children's yearly stuff, complete with photos, letters by the parents, the kids, and "teacher", to be saved for posterity. And, they get a certificate.
    She goes to work @ 6:30 am, and get's home around 6:30pm.
    After dinner, she works til' midnight or so (this week; it's been 1-1:30am every night, getting the "books" ready).
    She does get paid an extra bit for teaching the "After School" program; but a big chunk of the extra dough goes to the Feds.

    "Extra" jobs???
    My God... if there were time, she might even try it, but it would probably kill her. Though it WOULD help to offset some of the costs associated with being a K-teacher @CCSD.

  3. Jessie:

    No one I know went into the profession to be rich. I lost 10 grand from my previous salary when I went into teaching. I thought I could make more of a difference by being in administration, but the person with whom I worked made the job unbearable and the constraints were infinitely restrictive. And, I missed teaching children so I went back and didn't at all regret losing almost 20 grand. I have always been poor and I never knew how it is to have money to spare. What you don't know you won't miss, I guess. (I only wish I could see the green of Ireland and the rolling hills of Scotland before I die. Oh well.)

    The point is: Nobody advocates for children anymore. Not the government, not the community, heck not even most parents. WE ARE IT. If not us, who will? What would the future be like if we abandoned teaching?

  4. @airweare I don't know about you but I could live very well on $45,000 a year. I make $24,960 a year and by the time you take out insurance, taxes, etc it is just barely enough t survive on. I don't feel sorry for teachers who make only "$45,000", grow up and cut up the credit cards and tighten your budget some.

    I'm sorry but if they think it is so hard to make it on 45k a year they should try and make it on 25k a year. They need to remember just one thing they are lucky to be working. I have a guy I use to work with who felt that he was not getting paid what he was worth and would not do parts of the job because he was not making what he felt he was worth and when it came time to lay somebody off guess who was laid off he was.

    So to teachers grow up and suck it up and stop whining and crying. When you live paycheck to paycheck making 25k a year then you will have the right to cry and moan and groan. That is just my opinion and mine alone.

  5. Dave,

    I am betting you did not have to to spend $60K on your education to hold down that $25k a year job that you have either.

    Just because you did not further yourself in life is no reason to kick on those that did.

    I am also betting you don't spend at least 10% of your own money you make on the kids so you can teach them. Seems parents these days don't think their kids need school supplies. You know, pencils, paper, Etc.

  6. "I work for peanuts; and I LIKE IT!"
    "Teachers don't deserve decent pay OR my respect."

    This is EXACTLY the kind of ignorant rhetoric that is KILLING education in Las Vegas, Nevada, and many other areas of our country.

    "Corporate America don't pay me nothin'! I don't get no benefits; why should you? I din't go to skool, so why should I care that you DID and have student loans to pay off?"

    "I'm makin' 25K, and I'm survivin' fine! I practically LIVE at the Dollar Store, and LOVE Hamburger Helper!"
    Wow, dude....good for you, man! Alright! You are livin' large in Las Vegas, my man!

  7. American's want a World Class Education for their kids on the WalMart Plan...
    Low wages, no benefits, part-time employment, and the threat of dismissal at any moment...
    Good luck with that, America!!!

  8. "I'll take the Steak & Lobster, please...
    but I'll only pay for a Cheeseburger."

  9. As usual, Americans want something for nothing. Teachers and professors do not enter the profession to make big money (unless they go for the top-level administrative jobs), but for some reason (could it be the Republican party's hatred for people who earn a living?), many Americans think all of us should work for nothing or next-to-nothing and be grateful for the opportunity to deal with unhelpful parents and administrators. I can absorb a pay cut. Can beginning teachers and professors? No. And the percentage of their cut is the same amount as those administrators who generally just make their lives miserable.

  10. Dave,
    25k might sound sufficient to you, but try to raise a family or plan a career on that amount. I often buy my own paper and other classroom supplies so I can provide my students with the knowledge they need to be successful. I also have spent thousands maintaining my license and earning advanced degrees to make me a better teacher. I want my students to have every opportunity to achieve their dreams.

    The teachers I know did not join the education profession to get rich, most simply enjoy giving back to the society that gave them so much. It's getting harder and harder to stay in education and I've been at it for over 22 years.

    Please open your mind to the concept of adequately funding education.

  11. 60,000 to 90,000 is a wage any professional with a master's degree should make. Extend the school year to 12 months with vacations and justify paying teachers a professional wage. Extending the school year will allow more time for math and science, as well as liberal arts and physical education, and relieve some childcare and work-leave expenses from families. Increase standards and expectations along with the extended school year and make U.S. competitive with worldwide education standards.

  12. Teaching, at every level in NV, has become a vocation rather than a profession. There's just no incentive, financially or in terms of how much vitriol is directed at teachers, to treat it as a profession. I can't say I blame the man featured in the story for no longer wanting to describe himself as a teacher. And given the recent budget cuts, it's only going to get worse with more K-12 teachers and university professors opting - quite deliberately - to distance themselves from the profession. Why should teachers and profs do the same amount of work while their pay is being slashed left and right?

  13. pmmart...
    For God's sake man...
    What gave you the idea I didn't WORK?
    I have a full-time job, you ninny...and have for the past 42 years.
    THINK before you hit that "post comment" button, dude.

  14. ...and if you asked my wife, she'd tell you straight up; I do ALL THE HOUSEWORK in my home.
    Get a clue, brother!

  15. @RefNV...

    "Paying teachers a cost-of-living adjusted salary of $60,000 to $90,000 to teach children reading, writing, math, science, history, government and phys-ed just seems high."

    What are you talking about?
    I do not know one single teacher who makes the LOW END of your "cost-of-living adjusted salary.

  16. ...of course, some DO make the LOW end... I just don't know any.

  17. The notion that teachers should "know in advance they're getting into a poor paying field", and "they oughta DEAL with it!" is Horsehockey.

    If you want a WORLD CLASS EDUCATION for your urchins, you must PAY FOR IT.

  18. RefNV: Teachers go into it knowing what the pay and benefits are going to be. Unfortunately, they start getting told, nope, no COLA for you. You get to pay more for your health care. You get to pay for your retirement. Now they are trying to take away the salary advancements for obtaining extra education/degrees.

  19. According to RefNV, NO ONE get's paid extra for the fact they have an EDUCATION.
    Where did he dream that up???

  20. Now, I simply must go to work, lest PM Mart accuses me further of sitting on my duff all day playing on the computer while my wife earns "all the money"...
    When one of you is a teacher, the udder has to have a gig to pay the bills!

  21. Let me clarify this: I did not go into teaching to get rich. Okay? That means I know I won't get paid like a CEO.

    What I am trying to tell the public is: Why do teachers' pay and benefits have to be the target? The public keep saying 'share the pain," but not everybody is sharing. Only the little people are hurting, teachers being one of them.

  22. If everybody thinks that teacher pay is so good, and that the work is only "part-time", why are we having so much trouble finding teachers? I would think that people would be beating down the door to get our "good gigs." Especially now, with unemployment so high in Vegas.

  23. How much of today's social and government funding/revenue problems result from the change in emphasis in the classroom back in the 70s? Remember, many of today's voters were being taught their values since then and those values are reflected in current policy.

  24. "I have no dog in this fight," - olbuddy

    Yes, you do. The children being educated today will be voting tomorrow. The children who fail today will be on welfare tomorrow.

    Everyone benefits from public education, whether they have children or not.

  25. What a Pitty!!!! My son was one of Mr. Avellino's students this year and to say he was outstanding is an understatement. We can all recall one or two teachers in our lives that didn't only teach but made a significant impact on our lives and I can tell you Mr. Avellino did that for my son. On the way home from School today my son wept because he said "He only wants to have Mr. Avellino as his teacher."

    Mr. Avellino will be successful in whatever he decides to do, I am sure of that.

    Thanks for being a great teacher, mentor and role model!

  26. @vegaslee HOW DARE you ASSUME I did not further myself. that is all that I am going to say to you here.

    @DrJoeP I realize that you and all teachers have to purchase your supplies, and so do a lot of other careers. I work as a Maint Tech for a property management company and as of today I have six thousand dollars wrapped up in my tools, this year alone I will spend close to two thousand dollars, if not more, on tools alone. Plus I have to purchase my own uniforms and work cloths, I have to pay for my own gas in the middle of the night to respond to a clogged toilet that some residents clog themselves so that they can flood their apartment in hopes of getting their carpet cleaned. Or what about spending three dollars plus a gallon on gas to respond to a stopped up kitchen sink only to get there and find that the sink is not clogged they just said that because they forgot to call in for light bulbs for their kitchen.

    Or what about the occasion dinner out for the family that you have to get up from to go and deal with the power being off in an apartment because some kids thought it would be funny to flip the main power breaker on the side of the building.

    Three months ago I had my tool bag stolen from the shop at a complex I worked at. I love over six hundred dollars worth of tools and I am still having to take a chunk of each pay check to replace those tools, and do you know who broke into the shop a bunch of teenagers. One of them was caught by complex security and you know what that girl did, she laughed and said so what, and her mother went ballistic on the police for even talking to her sweet innocent daughter.

    And let not forget about coming home with bedbugs and having to replace half the furniture in the house because of them, and spend a couple thousand dollars to get them taken care of. Just because the resident would not contact the complex office about them.

    My issue is not with teachers but with people who make 45k + a year and who cry that they just can't make it on that. People should think before they cry at their wages that there are people who are unemployed and trying to make on 375 a week, and there are people who work just as hard if not harder everyday for a lot less. And just so you know I had a career for many years as both career and volunteer that people in this town hate and I am paying the ultimate price for doing what I love, my eyesight. I have been told that I will be blind by the time I am 60.

  27. @gmag there is nothing wrong with making 25k a year. AT LEAST I AM WORKING AND AT LEAST I AM MAKING AN HONEST WAGE EVERYDAY.

    To everybody I have no issue with teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, and those that work with children, the sick, etc. MY ONLY ISSUE IS WITH THOSE THAT COMPLAIN PUBLICALLY THAT THEY HAVE A HARD TIME MAKING IT ON 45K A YEAR. When there are those out there that make it on a heck of a lot less every year. What about those seniors that survive some how on 11k and are happy with what they get from social security. What about the man who worked all of his life and gets 803 dollars a month from social security and another 130 a month from the VA. Or what about the person who made 65k a year working for Walmart as a manager and who now gets 9k a year in social security.

    They survive and are happy to get every dime they get. Do I begrudge teacher, NO I DON'T, do i get angry at those that complain that they cannot make it on 45k a year when there are those of us that make it on a heck of a lot less, HECK yes I do.

    I am sorry if I offended any of the teachers out there. And just so you know if it was on the ballot to raise taxes to help the schools I would vote yes in a heart beat. Because I do want our children and future leaders to have it better than I did when I went to school. And by the way my hat does go off to teachers.

  28. @gmag no I don't live high on the hog in Las Vegas but with the economy the way it is I am making less and I am not complaining because I am happy to be working. I have a lot of respect for our teachers because there is noway I could do what they do for a living but on the other hand there is noway half the teachers could do what I do for a living.

    It makes me sick when I hear somebody who makes 20k a year more than I do who complains that they can't make it and that their disposable income is just not there. Yes teachers spent two to four thousand a year in supplies but you know what so do a lot of other careers. And yes my insurance costs are going up and yes I have not had a COLA raise mater of a fact when I got laid off earlier this year and was offered a job that paid 4600 dollars less a year and I jumped on it so that I could be a productive member of society. Not one of those that cry about the illegals and who refuse to take a job a few dollars less an hour because it is below them.

    And by the way if I could do the profession that I trained to do when I was many years younger I would be making 60 to 90 k a year. And that is one that MANY AND I MEAN MANY PUT DOWN DAILY IN THIS AREA. And I can't do that profession anymore so I do what I have to help my family to survive.

  29. I never said I was bitter, many years ago I had a career that paid more than what teachers are making and the only reason I am not working in that career is because I am going blind due to injuries to my eyes performing that career. I was both a career and volunteer firefighter so please do not put me down for saying that I think teachers should suck it up. Where I fought fires at I made 49k a year in a smaller Midwestern city. My family and I made it on that. In today's economy those that complain that they can't make it on 45k a year should look around and look at those that are not working at those families that are homeless, at those that refuse to take a job that pays $12 dollars an hour because they use to make $22 an hour. I use to make a couple of years ago $18 and now I'm making $12 an hour.

    I do it because at least I am working and at least I am trying to be a productive member of society.

  30. @Megara7 I want to break down your comment and make a couple of comments and tell you my side. Especially since you claim I am resentful and angry.

    1. "your attitude and resentment are part of the problem in this country."-----I am not resentful or have a bad attitude. I just feel that those that make 45k a year should not complain when there are those out there that work very hard everyday for a lot less.

    2. "You didn't want to spend the money to get an education, so you resent those who did and try to make their lives better."---I had my paramedics license and have an Associates degree in Arts with a major in Fire Science (aka firefighting degree needed to reach the ranks above firefighter). So yes I did spend money on education. My degree is worthless since due to injuries I can no longer make what I use to, and no I am not bitter, resentful, and no I do not have a "attitude problem". I am being realistic.

    3. "I'm not asking for sympathy either, just stating a fact. I thought it was worth it to get my education. I'm a second-year teacher, but I'm not going to stay with CCSD either. I think they are worst of all, treating teachers with complete contempt--we're just pawns on a chessboard, to be used in their political games. I'm moving on to a different job..."---You may not be asking for sympathy but they guy who teaches twenty student and works as an actor at the mob experience at the trop sure in the heck is especially complaining that he cannot make it. And I am glad you are not going to stay with CCSD because if you are the best that the Clark County School District has to offer than our children are in big trouble.


    I just don't like those that complain that they cannot make it on 45k a year when there are those that are forced to make it on a lot less such as those that worked all their lives and now get 803 a month from social security and 130 from the VA. And the fact that there are so many that are out of work and making it on unemployment and those that are disabled and that make it on a lot less. When you live on SS benefits or disability benefits then you have a right to complain.

  31. airweare,

    I call bullsh!t. There is no way in hell you can say that anything you have done is more rewarding than helping a student realize that there is so much more to learn and giving them the desire and ability to learn it.

  32. By the way, I'll back that statement up.

    I received a phone call just a couple of months ago from a person I hired a few years ago. He moved on to a new company last year, and he called to thank me for teaching him new ways to look at programming, how to find new ways to identify the objective. That was one of the most satisfying moments I've had in a long time.

    I should mention that he is the same age I am, in fact, a month older.

  33. You little people are arguing with each other. You are arguing about pennies and dimes.

    You are fighting the wrong enemy. That is exactly what they want. Band together and fight the greed of corporate America.

  34. @AIRWEARE, if you would have read my comments you would see I have nothing against them they just need to stop crying about only making 45k a year because there are plenty of people out there that survive on a lot less than 45k a year. But I guess they don't count, just the teachers who spend time grading papers, etc. But there again I am just a person who did nothing more with most of their life than try and help others who were in trouble.

  35. Teaching is not for everybody. Otherwise those who complained and would be happy with teachers' salary would have been teaching. Right? Why aren't you, if you think teachers' salary is HUGE!

    Because you have to go to college! And, not everyone is college material. You said the college of education is where students, who don't have the "abilities" to go into engineering or medicine or business, go. Fine. If you think the college of education is so easy, why don't you try it? Remember the salary would be HUGE. Why aren't you flocking the college of education?

    You think teaching is so easy and you can pick any Tom, Dick, and Harry off the street to teach?

    Tom, Dick, or Harry has to have a license before they can go inside the classroom to teach! That license expires in three to four years and before it is renewed, they have to take more courses!

    Wait a minute, ADDTIONAL DEGREES according to one NPRI shill, even Bill Gates the almighty himself said, additional degrees dont make teachers more effective! So why are they required to take more courses just to renew their license to go inside the classroom?

    I won't tell you what and who are inside the classroom. You have to discover it for youselves. What do you think, Tom,or Dick, or Harry? Wanna try?

  36. @ ASadTeacher Nancy Agustin...

    "You little people are arguing with each other. You are arguing about pennies and dimes.

    You are fighting the wrong enemy. That is exactly what they want. Band together and fight the greed of corporate America."

    Nancy, truer words were never spoken.
    We have been pitted against one another by the 2 percenter's who are laughing all the way to the bank.
    Them Corporate Greedster's have had us for lunch.
    The ruination of the Middle-Class and all this anti-union nonsense? Guess WHO?
    Corporate America. We must act now!