Inside of a shared office, surrounded by testing papers, books, numerous cards, official letters of commendation and various plaques and awards, stands Joshua Parker, Maryland’s newest teacher of the year. Currently, he has on a pink polo shirt and blue slacks and is walking around preparing SMART active response units while answering questions from students from his class. When being asked about his origins for teaching, Mr. Parker scratches his head, fixes his jacket and answers honestly.
“I wanted to impact lives,” Parker said, paying close attention to both tasks at hand. “I love working with kids and I love English. I want students to have that same love for English and understand how it can change lives.”
As he prepares to answer the next question, Mr. Parker gets his customary Dr. Pepper Cherry soda, takes off his jacket and looks at us while answering talking about ways he motivates students.
“I build deep relationships with them and communicate important ideas to students,” Mr. Parker says between sips. “I make lesson fun and relevant to the lives of students I teach.”
Standing tall over one of his tasks, Mr. Parker takes a momentary break to passionately speak about the challenges and pains of teaching.
“When students don’t get the lesson or when students are confused, it causes me pain,” Mr. Parker says, with a focused look at the interviewers. “Over the course of my teaching career, sometimes the pain has moved from emotional and changed into physical pain. In my first year of teaching, I was on the verge of two nervous breakdowns. For about two months, my days began at 5 a.m. and ended at 1 a.m. the following day. I had to take two buses starting at 5:30 a.m. in order to get to school just before the first bell rang. It was very difficult at the beginning.”
This early hard work seems to be paying off, as he is now the English/ Reading/World Languages Department Chair, 2011-2012 Baltimore County Public Schools Teacher of the Year and 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year. As we conclude our interview, Mr. Parker has just about finished preparing his gift for winning state teacher of the year honors, 32 SMART active response units that enable students to respond to various question types. Always funny and engaging, Mr. Parker engages both the interviewers as he talks about what he loves about teaching.
“I love the students, I love the challenge of teaching and I love getting students to read more,” Mr. Parker says between laughs and smiles. “It is a joy for me to get students to understand the concept of English and the idea that learning never stops.”
As we prepare to return to class, Mr. Parker, whose slender frame is clad in casual dressy attire, reminds us that he follows all of the students that graduate from his classroom. We smile, hoping he keeps his word.
8th graders Taikee Carter and Dameatria Washington, Windsor Mill Middle School, Baltimore County, wrote this article together. Taikee enjoys discussion and public speaking and hopes to be an engineer. Dameatria loves dressing fashionably and hopes to open a boutique.