Teacher Spotlight Shines on Mr. Zapel

By: Matthew Vibbert

As the school year started, we saw some returning faces, such as Mr. Zapel, who returned this year after being out all of last school year on his paternity leave. Some of you may have previously known him, while others may not have had the chance to have him as a teacher. With his leave, Mr. Zapel’s position took the place of Mrs. Smith, who has recently moved out of the district. Mr. Zapel was nice enough to answer a few questions about himself, as well as give The Squire some details about his teaching experiences.

The Squire: What’s your favorite thing about teaching? Why?

Mr. Zapel: My favorite thing about teaching is watching the students grow over the course of the year and even their educational career. Seeing the transformations that some students experience as they grow and mature is not only satisfying, but also encouraging as I watch them leave the comfort of school and enter the “real world” ready to change it. That being said, I can’t deny that, now I have children of my own, it’s nice to have the same schedule as them.

TS: What’s your least favorite thing about teaching? Why?

Mr. Z: To be honest, nothing about the act of teaching is all that bad. However, the paperwork leaves something to be desired. Paperwork is my nemesis!!! I could teach all day without any issues; perhaps that is why I used to coach after school as well. But, grading papers, checking emails, and all of the other paperwork I am responsible for on a daily basis is my least favorite aspect of teaching.

TS: How long have you been teaching?

Mr. Z: This is my tenth year of teaching, and they have all been here at EMHS.

TS: What’s one of your best experiences in teaching?

Mr. Z: I don’t know if I can pinpoint my best experience teaching to a single moment, but there is a sentiment that I have heard several times over the years that I think would qualify. Teaching math, not everyone is excited about coming to class, and, as a result, many students feel frustrated before they even enter the room. However, occasionally something will all of a sudden make sense to students and they will realize they are capable of being successful in a math class. On rare occasions, they even vocalize it, and it is truly rewarding.

TS: What got you into teaching?

Mr. Z: Teaching was always something I had considered growing up, but only on and off. You see, I am a fourth generation teacher (my mom, both of her parents, and my maternal great-grandmother). For me, it was something I grew up with. In all honesty, as sad as it sounds, I remember holiday conversations around the dinner table as a child focusing on educational trends and how they compare to previous decades. Over the years, I changed my mind about what I wanted to do, constantly trying to rebel against my family tradition, but always returning again to my roots. Therefore, when I initially attended college, it was not actually for education. However, after a few years and some extenuating circumstances, it became apparent that I was not really happy pursuing the field I was in, and therefore switched to a study in education.

TS: What, to you, is one of the most difficult things about teaching?

Mr. Z: One of the most difficult realities of teaching is know that you are not going to be successful in helping everyone. It’s not that you don’t try or that the students don’t either, but sometimes there is just a disconnect somewhere and things don’t work out. You never give up, and you try not to take it personally, but it can still be frustrating. However, this is what also leads to my favorite part of teaching. Seeing students that struggled, but then found a way to succeed is very rewarding, even if it was several years after I might have had them.

TS: What advice would you give to graduating students? Students planning to go to college?

Mr. Z: Several years ago I had seniors in class, and I came up with the following words of wisdom that I think might be appropriate to share here.

A few words of wisdom:

1.) Stay curious!

2.) Learn because you love it, because you desire to know more!

3.) Be spontaneous—do things because they interest you, not because they are assigned!

4.) Don’t be afraid to redefine yourself in college, but don’t change what makes you, you!

5.) Being in college is an awesome time in your life—you have the opportunity to still act young, to still behave somewhat immature and inappropriate, but you finally have the opportunity for freedom and responsibility; it is an exciting and difficult combination to balance—enjoy yourself and the time, but be smart and be safe!

6.) Some of you will be going to school in cities much larger than you’re used to. Be smart and be safe; employ the buddy system, don’t be too bold or daring—if you feel you’re in an awkward, dangerous, or uncomfortable situation, get out of there! Don’t end up a statistic!

7.) Study because you have to in order to fully grasp the material, not because it’s graded. In high school many of you have been smart enough to get away without truly studying and only do work because it’s required (in other words, there are points assigned). In college, it’s often times not officially required (in other words, there are no points assigned), but it is required! It’s an interesting paradigm shift in that in high school, you don’t have to but it’s required and in college it’s required even though technically you don’t have to. Get used to studying days and weeks in advance of an assessment.

TS: Do you have any plans for the holidays?

Mr. Z: My plans for the holidays always consist of trying to wrangle my children into a state of presentable for public viewing, following by chauffeuring them to all of the families’ houses, and this year is no different. Although, with that being said, I hope to finally be able to order (and possible install “fingers crossed”) the cabinets for my kitchen. Over the summer, I completely gutted the kitchen and started putting it back together, but then school started and I haven’t had much time to finish it since. Hopefully, I can take care of that over the break, as I think my entire family is tired of living with the temporary measures I put in place like the makeshift plywood sink, the fridge in the dining room, and the stove in the middle of the floor!

     The Squire would like to give a big thanks to Mr. Zapel for taking the time to respond to these questions, and we are also extremely happy to have him back and teaching again!

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