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Profile:  Sarah Zook

An undying love of learning and a desire to help children become successful adults are the two most important reasons I became a high school teacher.  After graduating from Montana State University-Billings in 1998, I took a teaching position at Idaho Falls High School where I taught Spanish, Math, and Technology.  While in Idaho, I attended training sessions for Hands-On Math and Interactive Language—all geared toward student-centered teaching and participative methods in place of some of the more traditional lecture approaches.  I saw very positive results from my students and found I enjoyed teaching more.  Although I had many great experiences in Idaho, I began to feel the strong pull that most Montanans feel to return home.  A Great Falls native, I moved back to the Great Falls area with my husband in 2001. 

I took a position teaching Math and Computers at Simms High School.  After a year with the District, I saw the need for greater communication among staff and so coordinated a Vertical Team effort among the Math staff 6-12.  Attending AP training in both Math and Spanish encouraged me to push my students toward higher standards.  Each year I feel more positive about the results of my teaching efforts as I set higher expectations for my students and offer them more opportunities for experiential learning. 

I have always sought challenges and opportunities for growth, but by far the greatest growth I have experienced came as I became a part of the Montana Heritage Project at Simms.  I started by providing technology support, but was compelled to become more involved.  With the guidance of lead teacher, Dottie Susag, I saw students gain real understandings about themselves, neighbors, and communities.  The Heritage Project incorporated what I already knew was valuable in education with a new aspect—community.  It made sense to have students learning in a real context that was a part of their history and helped them gain a stronger sense of self.  When Dottie retired in 2003, I was granted the opportunity to direct the Simms Project.  The challenge was great and the task was difficult as all worthwhile endeavors are.  As in past years, the students felt that sense of pride and accomplishment when friends and neighbors smiled, chatted, and commented on their work.

Then, when I moved to Great Falls Central Catholic High School in 2004, I was again afforded the chance to work with community-centered education, this time as an Affiliate level grant school.  It has been an outstanding experience for my students as they have conducted authentic research about World War II and the Holocaust and then interviewed local veterans about their experiences.  As I had seen before, students become a part of the learning when they experience it and they become a part of the community when they have real conversations with its elder members. 

Posted by Sarah Zook on 02/07 at 04:38 PM






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