For a child who grows up with parents as idols, it’s not uncommon to head down the same career path as adults.
For Eleanor Rush Intermediate School Teacher Erin Zarzycki, that chosen career was simply the family business. Coming from a long line of educators, Zarzycki can actually trace the family business back to the 1920s. Her grandparents, mother, father, aunt and uncle were all teachers.
While growing up in a house where her older sister had special needs and her father earned different degrees in order to help her schooling, Zarzycki understood empathy, warmth and a love for education.
Once she got into the family business, it didn’t Zarzycki long to become a natural. As a result, she has been named the Eleanor Rush Intermediate School Teacher of the Year for 2020.
“It was really surprising and amazing at the same time,” she said. “I felt very humbled about it and after 18 years, you think like you don’t need those pats on the back. But it just felt really great for other people to notice what you do and how hard you work.
“There are some mornings where I just went to bed at 4 a.m. doing school work, writing things, making slides and trying to create activities and I think that’s what people miss about teachers,” Zarzycki added. “They think their schedules are pretty easy and they have the summers off, but no teacher is truly off in the summer.
“We’re creating and coming up with new ways to get kids to enjoy school, so it was really awesome.”
Despite the family ties to education, Zarzycki originally chose a different path. She first became a writer for Woman’s Day Magazine in New York City and also worked at a public relations firm before ultimately making the switch to education.
Zarzycki saw an ad in a Philadelphia newspaper for much needed teachers and decided to make a change. She would go on to teach first grade in Philadelphia and Cinnaminson for several years; she has taught fourth grade at the Rush school for seven years. According to Zarzycki, that age group fits her perfectly.
“I think I really take to their excitement of learning,” she explained. “They come in happy and excited every day to see what you have planned. That invigorates me and I’m able to use my creativity to make lessons come alive.”
As far as Rush Principal Kerry DiSimone is concerned, Zarzycki truly deserves the teacher of the year award. Her continuing desire to become a better teacher has a made a big impact in the school.
“Not only among fourth grade, but Erin has been a leader and goes above and beyond,” DiSimone explained. “She writes grants, she wants to bring in extra programs. You can tell that she truly never stops wanting to be a better teacher.
“Her enthusiasm is evident every day. I think she is making a great impact with her students and when she feels like she may not have reached that one student, she goes the extra mile to do so.”