Oakcrest teacher of the year spreads the credit

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Photo by Julie Hazard/Oakcrest teacher of the year Zack Leathers is the founder and coach of the boys lacrosse program at the school. He's also Forensics Club advisor and assistant coach for wrestling and football. Photo by Julie Hazard/Oakcrest teacher of the year Zack Leathers is the founder and coach of the boys lacrosse program at the school. He's also Forensics Club advisor and assistant coach for wrestling and football.

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – Oakcrest High school’s 2013 teacher of the year Zack Leathers heard about the award from the big boss himself, school district Superintendent Steve Ciccariello.

“I received a personal phone call from Superintendent Dr. Ciccariello one night informing me of the honor,” Leathers told The Current.  “I was, and still am stunned by the news.  I feel extremely honored to work with such a great group of professionals.”

A teacher for five years, all of which have been spent at Oakcrest, Leathers teaches ninth-grade world history. He said really enjoys teaching classical history to his students.

“My favorite subjects to teach include ancient Greek and Roman culture, as well as the Mayan civilization,” he said. “I find the customs, traditions and architecture of these groups to be fascinating.”

Leathers grew up in Unionville, Pa., graduated from Unionville High School in 2001 and received a bachelor of arts degree from Shippensburg University in 2005 with a concentration in citizenship. He lives in Galloway with his wife Sarah and their two dogs, Summer and Jedi.

He said teaching and learning were an important part of his home life as a child.

“My mother and father were both educators, and brought their love of education into games and activities at home,” he said, adding that his sisters Meg and Sandy also helped him get through school and keep him on track and out of trouble.

“I had a great group of teachers and coaches, and it’s because of my positive experience with them that I wanted to become an educator try to help others enjoy their schooling,” he said. 

Leathers knew he wanted to be a teacher in college while living with his roommate, Andy. 

“Andy was studying to be an elementary school teacher and convinced me to turn my love of history into a career,” Leathers said. “When my older sister Sandy began her teaching career, she would come home with stories of how her day was full of fun moments and feel a real sense of pride when she had a breakthrough lesson with her students.”

His cousin Tim Henkels was also a mentor. 

“He has been like an older brother to me since I was young, and has given me advice throughout the years,” he said of his cousin who is currently a teacher and a coach in New York. “He has provided me with the foundation of who I want to be as an athlete, a teacher and a person.”

Today, as a teaching professional himself, Leathers shares that pride in connecting with students. He said the best thing about being a teacher “is knowing that a student understands something because you did a good job getting the information across. 

“Helping students achieve is a very rewarding part of the profession, and every day brings plenty of opportunities to do just that,” he said.

For Leathers the education profession is a two-way street, meaning that he learns as much from his students as they do from him.

“They show me compassion for their fellow classmates, and a love for parts of history that I didn’t know was out there,” he said. “The students of Oakcrest are always fun to be around, and fill the days with fun stories and make it a great place to work.”

He said another great thing and being on the Falcons faculty is work environment.

“I love working with fellow teachers and an administration that always go out of their way to help each other out,” Leathers said.  “My fellow teachers are innovators in teaching, and always looking for new and exciting ways to keep up with educational trends.”

In addition to teaching world history, he has also taught 10th grade U.S. History 1, 11th-grade U.S. History 2, psychology and world cultures at the school. Regardless of the subject, he advises anyone thinking of a teaching career that the classroom work is just part of what’s needed to do the job right.

 “I would tell anyone interested in becoming a teacher that you have to be willing to get involved in the life of the school,” he said.  “Activities, clubs and teams are great ways to show your students that you generally care about them.  When students want to work for you in the room, it makes the job easier.”

Susan Foreman, supervisor of social studies, performing arts and ELL said Leathers exemplifies what a teacher should be.

“He’s motivated, conscientious, diligent, energetic, patient, compassionate, flexible and intelligent," Foreman said.


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