Pyle Principal Michael Zarchin wins Mark Mann award

9/22/2008 Pyle Principal Michael Zarchin wins Mark Mann award

Michael Zarchin, principal of Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda, is the winner of this year’s Mark Mann Excellence and Harmony Award. The school system gives the award annually to an administrator who has shown an exceptional ability to encourage academic excellence, positive human relations and strong community outreach.

“You have made your school an exceptional place where students can and do succeed,” Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said. “The committee members were particularly impressed with the core values shared by students, staff members and parents at Pyle, where a passion for learning is exhibited in a nurturing and respectful environment.”

Zarchin has worked with MCPS since 1992, as a teacher at Woodlin Elementary School, a counselor at Poolesville and Northwest high schools and assistant principal at Kingsview Middle School before becoming principal of Pyle in 2004.

What is it that Zarchin is doing to help create a successful school? The Bulletin asked Zarchin, and here are some of his answers.

Q: What are the things that make your school successful?
A: What stands out to me is the shared sense of purpose and commitment the school community has to all students. We work together to make decisions that serve the best interests of students. Sounds like an easy formula, but it only works when you have a group of adults who are willing to put the needs of children and the best interests of the school before personal desires.

Q: The middle school years can be tough on students and their families. What do you and your staff do to help with this, emotionally and academically?
A: We work to provide a supportive learning environment that engages students with a vast variety of backgrounds and learning styles. Relationships are extremely important and help make our large school convey a sense of family. We understand this is a time when students will experience a great deal of change, a time when students will test the limits. Our desire is to provide opportunities for students to build resilience and confidence that will enable them to overcome challenges and learn from mistakes. If we do not educate the “whole child,” we have failed the students.

Q: How is the school’s focus on core values a part of this process?
A: When I started at Pyle, I asked the entire staff to participate in structured discussions to identify personal and professional values that reflected the true spirit of the school. The core values initially identified and agreed upon by the staff have been adopted by students and parents. The last five years, our core values have helped to provide basic standards for behavior and have been a driving force for all the decisions we make.

 Our core values are:

  • Demonstrating a passion for learning.
  • Encouraging academic and personal growth.
  • Sustaining a nurturing and respectful environment.
  • Honoring diversity.

Q: Since you’ve been at Pyle, you’ve worked to reduce the number of students rated “basic” on the Maryland School Assessment and increase the number of students rated “advanced.” What other academic gains have students made?
A: We have made a conscious effort to monitor the performance of individual students and provide appropriate support. The past few years our teachers have taken a critical look at how students are selected for above-level courses. We are doing a much more effective job seeing beyond the current performance of students and identifying what individuals are capable of accomplishing. With that said, we have a great deal of work to do until we can say that each and every student is performing to his or her potential.

Q: What do you do to support staff development?
A: Structured time is scheduled for teachers to work collaboratively. This school year, we reassigned teachers to classrooms that are in close proximity (usually next door or across the hall) with content-alike colleagues. This has increased the collaborative work among teachers.

Staff development is a priority and takes place throughout the school day. Formally, we have an excellent staff development teacher who works with staff members in groups of various sizes and with individuals. Much of the focus in group meetings has been on culturally responsive instruction and differentiation. Informally, staff development is owned by everyone and can be seen as staff members have conversations in the halls, team rooms and in the parking lot. Our teachers really care about one another and are quick to share a best practice, lesson, strategies and feedback with colleagues. I also insist that staff members share honest feedback with me. Many times that feedback is critical, but it has helped me grow as a principal and allowed me to serve the students and staff more effectively.

Q: How do you encourage parent and community involvement?
A: Parents share a partnership in all that we do. In fact, I can’t think of an event or part of our school day that parents have not contributed to in some form or fashion. I try to express my appreciation for parents who share their time to support the school and make a conscious effort to be available to parents whenever possible.

If you were to take a look at Pyle’s master calendar, you would see the incredible number of events that bring parents into our building—not only Back to School Night, sports activities and drama productions, but also International Night, Study Skills Night, meetings to navigate the articulation process and the sixth grade Chesapeake Bay service project showcase. Each of these events allows teachers and parents to connect with one another and to see how their partnership serves our students.

Q: What role does technology play in your school?
A: I have been incredibly impressed this year with the way teachers have come together to quickly learn to use our new Promethean boards. Teachers have worked not only with MCPS trainers, but also are motivated to collaborate, share their expertise and expand the use of this student-centered technology in the classroom. We’re proud to offer several technology-oriented instructional programs, including TV studio classes, Read 180, the Project Lead the Way pre-engineering program and desktop publishing.

Q: On the lighter side, what’s your favorite book and quotation?
A: I really enjoy reading books on leadership. The book Good to Great has had a strong influence on our work at Pyle. My favorite author is Pat Conroy. The novels The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini stand out to me as his best works.

I have shared a quote by Marcel Proust, “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes,” to start many of our staff development meetings. For me, it highlights the importance of culturally responsive instruction, as well as the importance of learning from the backgrounds and experiences of others.

 
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Michael Zarchin, principal of Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda, is the winner of this year’s Mark Mann Excellence and Harmony Award. The school system gives the award annually to an administrator who has shown an exceptional ability to encourage academic excellence, positive human relations and strong community outreach. What is it that Zarchin is doing to help create a successful school? The Bulletin asked Zarchin, and here are some of his answers.

1/1/0001 12:00:00 AM9/22/2008 4:46:30 PM12/31/9999 12:00:00 AMMaryEllenIcazaPyle Principal Michael Zarchin wins Mark Mann award3982A10339/22/2008 04:46:30 PMArchive_Expire/uploadedImages/bulletinPREVIEW/news/topstories/markmannaward.jpg/uploadedImages/bulletinPREVIEW/news/topstories/thumb_markmannaward.jpg9/17/2008 3:15:00 PM000