Manger of the Month: ‘I Love the Lightbulb Moment’

May 17, 2018



Project Manager Valerie Zink loves to study the mind of scholars and making their brains burst with her vast knowledge of literature. Zink has been teaching the middle school scholars at The ASK Academy for three years. She teaches three different classes: English, math, and social studies. This year, Zink teaches English to 6th grade scholars, a subject that she is quite passionate about.

Did you expect to be manager of the month and how did you feel?

I did not expect Manager of the Month! I have been here three years now and this is the first time that I have received Manager of the Month. It is my first time having so many kids and I have such a great group of 6th graders that I adore this year!

Why do you think scholars voted for you?

I would like to think that we have a good classroom community. I also have kids who really seem to love to read, and since reading is my passion and I have a large library, we find common ground in that.

At what point in your life did you decide to become a teacher? How did it happen?

I decided to become a teacher when I got a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and realized I could not do anything with it. I went back for a teaching degree with concentration in English and Social Studies. I have since added Gifted and just got a Master’s Degree in Special Education.

Who were the people who influenced you in your life?

My dad was a big influence in my life. He taught me to be independent and actually employed me when he owned a race track in Albuquerque, so I learned very early how to work for a living. My best friend’s mother was a teacher, and I was an assistant in her room. It was because of her that I pursued teaching.

What do you teach and why did you want to teach that/those subject(s)?

I have taught, English, Social Studies and Math. Most of my career, including right now has been about Gifted and English. I am passionate about English because I love reading and writing so much. By the time I am done with these kids, it is hard for them not to love it, or at least like it too! I love working with gifted kids because it is fun to challenge them, even when they do not want to be challenged!

What kind of student were you in middle school?

Can I plead the 5th? I was rotten! I got thrown out of class a lot. I was bored easily and acted out. My mother also passed away when I was eleven. I think these events are what make me uniquely qualified to work with middle school scholars.

What is the hardest part about teaching Middle school?

The hardest part about teaching Middle school is maintaining the kids’ attention and getting them to understand that what they are learning matters, especially getting them to understand that all of what they learn in ELA leaves the classroom and should be used everywhere.

What do you like most about teaching?

I love sharing reading with the kids. I love seeing the “light bulb” go on over the kids’ heads when they understand a grammar concept or how to write something. I love that teaching is never boring.

What makes ASK scholars different than other students?

ASK scholars are different because they choose to be here and they are more open to project manager interaction. They want to connect with their project managers, communicate, and learn, even if they do not realize this at first!

What makes ASK different than other schools?

ASK is different, in my opinion, because we care enough to truly know each and every scholar. We are not just looking at getting through a year and looking at numbers in a grade book. We want everyone to succeed academically, but we also want to be sure everyone is truly okay and happy.

What are your hobbies?

I love to read and  go bowling. I also do Bikram yoga when I not at UNM.

Are you married/have kids?

I am married to a retired firefighter/piano player and I have three step-children, one of whom graduates from ASK this year!

What has been the most profound experience you have had teaching this year?

My most profound moment this year would look small to most, but I finally figured out how to teach author’s tone and theme to 6th graders in a way that works! Those are tricky. Other English teachers will understand what I mean!

What piece of advice would you give to scholars based on your knowing experience?

My advice to scholars is to learn the good study habits now and use them. Stay focused now and do your best. Do not wait until “sometime later in high school or college” like I did.


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