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Meet Zach Parker, Boise, ID Charter Teacher
posted by: Cindy Omlin | May 15, 2015, 06:33 PM   

The Association of American Educators (AAE) recently profiled a number of charter school teachers for National Charter Schools Week, including Northwest Professional Educators member Zach Parker, High School English and History teacher at Sage International Charter School in Boise, Idaho.   Prior to teaching at Sage, Zach taught at Caldwell High School and Victory Charter High School where he played an extensive role in developing the entire English and History curriculum as well as advising several student clubs/organizations.  Zach gives his insights on charter schools and what motivates him as an educator below.


zach parkerQ.  What do you like about teaching in a charter school?

A. The ability to be flexible when needed is vital to our success. This flexibility allows for my school to make necessary cultural, schedule and academic changes mid-year in order to help the staff and students.  Further, I absolutely love the opportunity to be with, in my own classroom and in the halls, the same set of students for several years. This chance affords myself and my peers the great ability to develop deep and lasting relationships with our students.  To see the growth of these young students into mature, intelligent young adults is inspiring.

Q. What sets your school apart?

A. Charter is a school of choice and that extends to the professionals who work there too.   I love to tell everyone I can that I have never in my career of 11 years and three different schools, worked with a more dedicated, caring, and highly effective set of educators that I do at Sage International.  We choose to be here and we choose to make a difference. The fact that EVERYONE is on board has a profound impact on the activities, discussions and learning that takes place in our each classroom.   Further, our school is unique in that our charter has established each and every Friday as strictly a Professional Development day with no students.  This opportunity to work with our peers and in and among different departments creates a cohesiveness that allows our team to thrive.

Q. What motivates you as an educator?

A. As idealistic as it sounds, I've always wanted to change the world through education.  This still holds true.  Being that I am at my current school and considering the amazing like-minded and dedicated staff I work with I feel empowered to embrace openly this ideal, because, my peers feel the same way.

Q. What are the misconceptions you face as a charter school educator?

A. Misconceptions include: charter is a private school, charter costs money, charter is a 'savior' school for all students, charter pulls only selective students (mainly the high performing) from the community, and charter receives the same funding amount that it's neighboring non-charter schools do.  All of this is false and creates problems for everyone involved.

Q. How is your school different from other schools you’ve taught in?

A. At Sage everyone is of the same mindset and that is to do what is best for our students.  We are all encouraged to be ourselves and push our students to be themselves, too.   Academic rigor is important and vital as is discussion among peers.  Sharing ideas, resources, practices, experience is highly encouraged as is sitting in on our fellow teachers to provide instructional feedback and/or to learn from their strengths.  None of this was true, or at least it was lip service at my prior schools.

Q. What would you like to tell teachers in other environments about teaching in a charter school?

A. Charters have the power to make changes in the lives of those educators who work in such environments and those students who attend.  This isn't to say that traditional environments can't or don't do this, it's just to point out that charters seem to have the ability to collect a larger group of educators who want to be there for the same purpose. This is hard because, at least in Idaho, charters are expected to do more with less funding.  And, in reality, not all schools are fortunate enough to gather many like minded educators.  And if this isn't the case then we need to do what Ghandi said: 'be the change you want to see in the world'.  Ultimately, we have to honor our profession by pushing ourselves and our peers to constantly raise the bar.  This means we have those hard conversations and we develop support networks and we challenge each other to drop old, ineffective habits and replace them with research proven effective ones.  Charters open the door for this to happen.  It is our responsibility to walk through the door.

AAE and NWPE support the public charter school movement and the heroic educators who make these innovative schools possible. 


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