Parker Earnest of Denver Colorado is an anthropologist and peace and conflict expert. He received his undergraduate degree from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, USA. Due to his deep passion for seeing children with special learning needs achieve their academic goals, he decided to pursue a career in the education sector as a Montessori elementary teacher.
He even enrolled at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado, to pursue a Master of Art in Special Education. In a bid to sharpen his Montessori teaching skills, he enrolled at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies, Boulder, CO, in 2020 for an AMS Montessori Licensure program. Upon completing the program, he obtained an elementary accreditation to teach lower and upper elementary students in any AMS credentialed school.
Parker Earnest is a staunch advocate of the Montessori method. He started his teaching career as a paraprofessional in 2015 at Manual High School, a low-income public school in Denver, Colorado. His primary role was to collaborate with teachers to modify and accommodate lessons for special education students. He also helped teachers with classroom management and academic support besides providing personalized assistance to general education and special education students.
In July 2016, Parker joined Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello as a Special Education Teacher. During his tenure at the institution, he worked with ninth and tenth-grade students diagnosed with specific learning disabilities. He also served as a case manager for 30 students. His tasks included writing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), communicating with parents, and collaborating with general education teachers to discuss students’ needs and challenges.
In August 2018, Parker Earnest started working at Compass Montessori School in Golden, Colorado. Thanks to his dedication to work and diligence, he rose through the ranks from being a Farm School Guide to being part of the institution’s online learning team. He currently teaches fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in language arts, remedial math, civics, anti-racism, and equity lessons.
Parker has more than seven years of experience working with students with diverse learning abilities. One of his recent outstanding achievements is creating an online learning model for 34-45 elementary students.
When Parker is not working with students, he enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, mountain biking, rafting, hiking, and is an avid home cook. He also loves traveling, coaching youth sports, and is a loyal college and professional hockey fan.
What drove you into being an educator?
I have loved education since my childhood days. That, combined with a passion for helping children achieve their goals, made me follow this career path.
Anything you learned from college that has been instrumental to your success?
In college, I studied anthropology, which is the study of humanity and human behavior. With that knowledge, I’ve had an easy time dealing with students from different backgrounds and with various disabilities.
I also engaged in many activities while in college, which helped sharpen my leadership skills. For example, I served as the East Africa Service Project President for two years. With a Certification in Conflict Resolution/Negotiation from the United States Institute of Peace, I can easily handle the day-to-day conflicts experienced in the school environment.
Why the Montessori method and not any other?
Montessori education is a development-focused concept that promotes children’s love for learning. It doesn’t focus on examinations, grades, or any other competitive processes that usually pressure students.
The Montessori system focuses on creating socially proficient children. One study conducted in the United States found that students in Montessori schools outperformed those in traditional schools. Their social and behavioral skills were especially outstanding compared to regular students.
You are a Montessori teacher. How can you define yourself?
A Montessori teacher has a solid dedication to his work and a passion for promoting children’s welfare and development. A Montessori teacher has a remarkable ability to identify each student’s needs, capabilities, and interests. I tick all of the boxes that define a Montessori teacher.
What does your typical daily schedule look like?
A Montessori educator’s day revolves around lesson planning, direction, observation, and offering personalized attention for every student. I spend the better part of my day observing the children and offering one-on-one assistance to each child as necessary. I sometimes sit with a student or a group of students to know what they’re working on and find whether they need some direction to achieve their goals. Watching children learn while developing their confidence and social adeptness is what I live for.
What is the most gratifying part of your work?
My greatest source of satisfaction is watching a child gain confidence in any subject. Sometimes they get the answer wrong, but their determination and confidence that they can figure out the answer on their own is simply heartwarming.
Teaching is about cultivating confidence in students to promote their determination to succeed. Spending your time to help them overcome their struggles and seeing how they glow with excitement when they start making connections is immensely satisfying.
What challenges do you experience as a special education teacher?
Special education is my calling, and I’ll love it to the very end despite the challenges. The biggest challenge is handling students with different disabilities. Since each student has unique learning needs, I have to create individualized education programs (IEPs) and modify my lessons to meet each student’s needs. Another major challenge is the lack of support from some parents of special needs children.
What’s one of your greatest achievements in recent years?
As part of the Compass Montessori Cloud Cohort, I helped create an online model learning model for 34-45 upper elementary students. This model was instrumental in our efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 among the students and teachers.
What has been the most satisfying moment in your career?
Getting positive feedback from parents, colleagues, and even students about my work helps me realize that I’m doing something worthwhile and that my efforts don’t go to waste. It’s so satisfying anytime someone tells me that I’m doing an excellent job with the students.
What education books have inspired you?
Several books inspire me. Top on the list is The Classroom Chef, written by educational technology coaches John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey. The next one is Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham.
I would encourage every teacher to read Finding Joy in Teaching Students of Diverse Backgrounds by Sonia Nieto.
What is your favorite quote about education?
“Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole
which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future.”
– Maria Montessori