Two weeks ago, we received a National Education Association publication in the mail. Although I have not taught in a classroom for over 25 years, I review this publication to gain ideas in which the chamber may collaborate with educational partners.

As I read through this issue, I learned that May 6th – May 10th was Teacher Appreciation Week and that May 8th was specifically ‘Day of the Teacher’ in California.

Teachers are dreamers, debaters and negotiators, adventurers and mediators.  My mind wandered to my high school journalism teacher, Mrs. Austin.  She is still a true mentor and inspiration, 44 years after my graduation.

As I continued to flip through the pages of the magazine, I thought it would be fascinating to interview the teacher in the Torrance Unified School District who has been teaching the longest.  With appreciation to Tammy Khan, I learned that Patrick Zartman has been teaching at Torrance High School since 1971.

I spoke with Zartman over the telephone to arrange a meeting date and time. After we hung up, I couldn’t wait to personally meet him.

As I walked through the campus, I felt so comfortable.  Students were sitting in various groups throughout the school sharing stories, eating lunch, playing catch and laughing.  I heard a lot of laughter.  Several students acknowledged that I was a guest on campus, by the name tag I was asked to wear, and went out of their way to say ‘hello’.

Arriving at Zartman’s classroom, I knocked on the door and was welcomed by a very pleasant man.  I quickly learned “why” he has been teaching since 1965.  He is passionate; his enthusiasm showed it, his smile showed it and his words showed it. “I encourage students to find something they like and to continue to do whatever that is.  And, in doing so I also motivate them to constantly improve and work harder every day,” smiled Zartman.

A teacher of United States History and AP Psychology, Zartman began his career in 1965 and was hired in 1971 by the Torrance Unified School District to teach at Torrance High School.

When asked to compare students from 1971 to current, Zartman said that students really have not changed. “In high school, whether in 1971 or 2019, students are maturing, they are enthusiastic, and they are all trying to find their way.  However, since 1971, the growth of technology has influenced students, both good and bad.  For reports and research, technology has enabled students to explore an entire new world with instant access, but technology has also enabled students too much screen time.  Students will often come to school tired and unable to focus because of too much time spent on their technology,” commented Zartman.

He also pointed out several other changes that have been made throughout his career.  He spoke about chalk boards becoming extinct and VCR machines being replaced with other mediums. The one I laughed with him the most on was the replacement of the ditto machine.   I loved the smell of freshly made copies off the ditto machine!

When asked “why” Zartman has continued to teach for 53 years he responded, “I enjoy seeing the response from students when they “understand something”.  That really fires me up. Additionally, I look for the good in each student and try to help them to set goals in finding something they are passionate about,” explained Zartman.

If the conversation I had with Zartman is anything like the conversations he has with his students, I would assume that they are motivated, inspired and encouraged each day.

It was truly a pleasure to be on the Torrance High School campus and to meet such an amazing teacher!




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