An Interview with Lynn

Lynn Schuster, or “Lynnie-Lynnie” as her students have affectionately coined her, is Parker School’s most veteran faculty member, having served as a teacher here for sixteen years. Lynn is a New York native and committed city dweller who appreciates the balance that her 77-acres of Parker life provides. In her spare time, Lynn is an obsessed perennial gardener and children’s lit fan girl. She loves to travel, be outside, and hike. Lynn lives with her husband of almost 30 years, Basil, and their crazy, gorgeous dog with one nipped ear, Sunny. Please read on to learn more about Lynn, in her own words…
How did you get into teaching?
“I’ve always been drawn to big picture thinking and systemic change. I graduated with degrees in political science, women’s studies, and English, and my first career was as a policy analyst in the New York State Legislature. I was driven by an interest in fairness, civil rights, and justice, and I loved being in an environment with idealistic and committed people. My husband and I moved to Los Angeles in our late 20s, and I left the Legislature behind. I knew I wanted to do more frontline work with children and/or families, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. I became a teaching assistant at a progressive school in LA, and a lightbulb went off. I had never laughed so hard or felt so challenged as I did working with school children every single day. I experienced such immediacy, minute-to-minute feedback, and a sense of making a difference in the world. I knew a career switch was in order. Now, my career at Parker shares the same qualities that I experienced and idealized right out of college: a work life centered around big ideas, belief in people’s ability to contribute to their communities and make a positive change in the world. The only difference is that the people I am believing in now are children. This is at the core of my teaching practice.”
What drew you to Parker School?
 “As an advocate for change, the idea of progressive education was a natural fit for me. When I returned to Albany ready to pursue a teaching career, I wasn’t sure I would find a progressive teaching environment in upstate NY. However, while working on my Masters at St. Rose, I found Parker and did classroom observations at the original location in Wynantskill. The relaxed nature of the kids, and their excitement about having a say in their own learning, was immediately and abundantly clear. I was a graduate student, but I was invited in right away as a substitute teacher. My ideas were trusted, and I was mentored in a challenging and loving environment. I knew I could flourish here. And if I felt that as a grown woman, I couldn’t imagine the impact Parker could have on young children. My mom, the school teacher I most admired, told me I was living the teacher-dream here at Parker. She was right.”
Describe your educational philosophy?
“I believe that deep, true, and lasting learning — for children and adults alike — cannot start unless you are supported and nurtured. I believe children deserve an environment that values nurturing them as much as it values creating challenging academics. Social and emotional work, both individual and as a group, should be prioritized and not seen as “soft” or ancillary to learning. I want my classroom, and my school, to be a place where both children and adults feel known and share a sense of community and purpose.”
What do you like about teaching at Parker? 
“The autonomy and sense of connection that my students and I have at Parker has allowed me to grow, change, and grow again since I became the 2-3 teacher in 2003. Parker supports me in moving in new directions and trusts my students and me to craft learning experiences that are centered in personal meaning and expression. I love that no two years are ever exactly the same. I am intellectually, socially, and emotionally growing all the time.”
What do you enjoy specifically about the age and developmental stage of the kids you work with?
“I have found there is nothing like working with 7, 8, and 9 year olds. They are independent but still need you. They are open to the world, have big feelings, and are in a huge transition on all fronts. They can think as deeply as (if not more so than) many adults. Second and third graders are philosophical and soulful — not cynical. They want to change the world, and they believe in their power to do so. I believe in their power too. Also, they are absolutely hysterical and silly, and they make sure I’m having fun all the time. They are my people.”
What is happening in your classroom right now?
“We are fully engaged in refining routines, practices, and expectations to establish the most supportive community we can so that every child feels known and cared for by the group. This is work that takes time and seasoning in these first months of school. Their beautiful Where I’m From poems are a key piece of work that came out of this process. We are now moving into our study of the Hudson River. They will learn about the Hudson as a geographical location, natural environment, place of history, and one of the birthplaces of our country’s environmental movement. But first, they will write expressively and personally about the river by crafting odes to the Hudson.”
What are your hopes and dreams for the school year?
“I hope that my class continues to grow together as a community, and that every child sees him-or-herself as a person with strong ideas worthy of expressing. I hope my students strive towards personal goals on all fronts—academic, social, and emotional. I want them to feel happy and supported and known, to find delicious books that move them, mathematical ideas that motivate them to learn more, and story ideas worth writing and illustrating and sharing with others. And at the center of this all, I hope they find those friendships and connections that encourage them to grow.
One of the great privileges of working in a PreK-8th grade school is that you get to watch children grow into strong, independent, and self-determined people ready for high school and beyond. I value the real connections I make with Parker students and families, and I have built lasting ties with students who are now in high school, college, and beyond.”