PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Fostering a sense of community and building relationships are fundamental to Zachary Pierson’s personal teaching philosophy.
A fifth-grade teacher, Pierson teaches at Rocky Point Elementary which is one of eight schools in Pender County designated as a Title 1 school. This means many of the students enrolled at the school live at or near poverty. Title 1 schools receive federal funding to support students through food programs and instructional resources.
Pierson is in his fourth year of teaching at the school where 48 percent of students are Hispanic.
“It’s important to meet them where they are at so the learning can happen and that way the growth can happen,” said Pierson. “Differentiating each individual need is extremely important with this demographic, in this area, and with the age and developmental levels of these kids.”
Creating a sense of community within the classroom is also important to Pierson and one way he accomplishes this is by including students in the rule-making process.
“Instead of giving them the rules of our classroom, we create the rules together,” he says. “What do we need to be successful and to put learning first? We put ideas up there, change all the negative ones like don’t do this to positive; what do we need to do to make our learning experiences enriching and what they need to be?”
An Ohio native, Pierson remembers one teacher in particular who influenced him to become a teacher.
“My fourth-grade teacher Miss Guy at Lake Elementary was the teacher that inspired me,” he said. “She fostered that nurturing and learning in the classroom, she focused on relationship building and every one of my peers enjoyed being in her classroom.”
Pierson also tries to connect the real world to concepts discussed in class. Earlier this month, he took his class on a field trip to the UNCW Center for Marine Science.
“Our students just finished about nine weeks of learning about the topics of weather,” he said. “It was very educational and it was a way for the students to be able to demonstrate the experiences they’ve had out in the real world.”
His efforts to establish a sense of community and foster relationships with students and their parents doesn’t go unnoticed.
“The biggest thing is that he goes above and beyond to do what needs to be done,” said April Perkins, principal of Rocky Point Elementary School. “He works very long hours, well past 3 o’clock here, making sure he’s preparing for the next day and making sure his students are all ready to learn.”
What might surprise you the most is that Pierson doesn’t teach his kids to focus solely on being successful in fifth grade.
“I try to instill, empower them to be successful in life,” he said. “I very much look in my classroom and wonder who is going to be that professional athlete, who’s going to be that CEO of that company someday, who’s going to find the cure to whatever disease or cancer and I know that some of them are sitting in this very classroom.”
With someone who believes you can achieve more, these kids shouldn’t expect to accomplish anything less.
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