Meet Humanities Teacher Zach Oden

Mr. Oden teaches Eighth Grade Humanities. We are excited to welcome him to Pardes.

Q: Why did you choose to work at Pardes Jewish Day School?

A: Aside from a stellar academic reputation within the community, the faculty, staff, and students all conveyed a sense of pride, comradery, academic excellence, and fun that I was immediately drawn to, and thought that I could really thrive in, and that would be a great fit for my children as they got old enough to come to school with their dad!

Q: What motivated you to become a teacher or to work in education?

A: I think most teachers come from a place of emulation and gratitude for the awesome teachers that they worked with (and maybe a few not-so-great teachers that we seek not to be like), and while that is especially true for me, it was one teacher/mentor in particular who gave me the advice that made me a teacher. He said that when I thought about a calling, to actively try and do something-anything-else. If you could, it wasn’t the work you were meant to do with your life. I’ve played music professionally, worked in fine dining, fallen through popcorn ceilings during a brief stint in carpentry (definitely not my calling, as my wife would attest), and hustled in marketing, but nothing for me held a candle to teaching (especially teaching writing).

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching or working in education?

A: Any time there is a collective “eureka” moment- we stumble into some new meaning or understanding within a novel, or we make a connection between something we have read or encountered before, the feeling of absolute discovery and joy in a collective, in-the-moment learning is incomparable to any other experience I can think of.

Q: What is the most important life lesson you want your students to learn in your class(es)?

A: We are made of stories.

Q: How do you keep current with the subject areas you cover?

A: In the humanities, because of the sheer scope of the subject matter, the difficulty can be not becoming overwhelmed in research/PD/Shop Talk, and knowing what resources and conversations are going to be best for your content area and teaching interests. I use social media when I can-(trying to turn it from a negative time-drain echo chamber into ways to connect with other teachers, writers, independent bookstores, and creative-types). There are also (virtual) conferences, writer’s workshops, and the obligatory educational/academic publications that I try to engage with as often as possible, and am trying my best to keep writing and publishing when I can.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: The Trumpet of the Swan. I made my mom make watercress sandwiches and put on jazz records. I was a weird kid.

Q: What is your favorite book as an adult?

A: I think I have read To Kill a Mockingbird every year I have taught, which may make it a favorite by default, and one I can come back to every year with new observations, criticisms, and reflections- it seems to be a book that comes of age with you, no matter what age you are when you read it.

Q: What are some of your interests/hobbies?

A: I play guitar and collect records, but hanging out with my kiddos- they are 1 and 4- and doing whatever they want to do/keep them from doing permanent damage to themselves and/or the house eats into a lot of hobby time right now.

Q: What are you most looking forward to this school year?

A: One of our writing units is on journalism, and as the son of a newspaper editor, I get really excited about introducing students to the genre of longform investigative journalism and “hermit crab essays”; it’s fun to see them engage with a new genre of literature (and learning about objective third-person reporting, interviewing, publishing, etc.) and tackle some issues that they are curious about.