By Barbara P. Jacoby
As a college student, Knox ES STEM Academy teacher Christina Parker wasn’t sure of her career path until it cartwheeled into her heart.
After high school graduation, she began coaching gymnastics to help pay for college. As she taught her students, she learned about herself, too.
“Going to the gym quickly became the best part of my day, as I was able to encourage young gymnasts to push themselves athletically, set goals, and work hard to achieve them,” she said. “Because of the connections I made with the gymnasts and their families, I realized that teaching would be a great fit for me. There is no better feeling than to see a child who once struggled not only succeed but succeed and then help other struggling students.”
A 19-year teacher, Parker taught second grade until 2020, when she began teaching English as a second language and early intervention program students.
“Learning new reading and math skills requires students to risk being wrong or giving the wrong answers,” said Parker, who was named her school’s 2022 Teacher of the Year. “Building relationships is key in creating an environment to encourage students to take risks. Struggling students don’t often feel success, and this can be very defeating and can cause little ones to give up before they even get started. I like to start with skills the children are capable of doing and let them feel successful in their learning before tackling the harder skills. Once they realize they can do it, they want to do it, and then their learning journey begins.”
One of her favorite techniques is teaching important concepts using a familiar tune or rhyme. “In my small groups, there is a lot of clapping, rhyming, singing, and chanting,” she said.
Parker also spreads joy through school volunteerism. For the book fair and car rider duty, she dresses up as characters, such as Clifford the Big Red Dog. She also serves on the School Council, helps with the school food pantry, and volunteers with her church Sunday school and Vacation Bible School.
“I think the most important way I serve in my school is simply by helping the classroom teachers with whatever they need on a daily basis,” Parker said. “By building up and supporting the teachers, I am also making an impact on the students.”
What can parents do to help their child be as successful as possible at school?
“Parents can help their child be successful by reading to their children. As your children get older, they can take turns reading with you,” Parker said. “Some parents might think that their child is too old to be read to, but that is not true. It’s a great time to snuggle up, read a little, and talk about what you read. It’s a great time to share memories of your childhood, stories of coming to our country, or your favorite book. Communication produces language development, which then produces learning in all academic areas.”