An Interview with Nellie

The second new face that Parker welcomed to our faculty this year is our 4-5 teacher, Nellie Barker. Nellie lives in Averill Park with her husband, John, and her 9-year-old son, Will. Prior to teaching at Parker, Nellie taught students ranging from 4th – 8th grades in both public and private schools in New York and Vermont. In her spare time, she loves gardening, hiking, exercising, being in nature, coaching, cooking, art, and watching her son play sports. Please read on to learn more about Nellie, in her own words…
How did you get in to teaching?
“Teaching embodies all the things I love so much about life: helping others and being a part of children’s lives in a meaningful way. I always felt I needed to teach. “Be the difference you wish to see in the world” has always been my philosophy. I genuinely love impacting others and the world in a positive way. It makes me feel so good to see other people light up. Teaching is a passion of mine because it involves presenting material in creative ways, thinking outside the box to tap into all different styles of learning, and being a good role model. Children are magical holders of our future, and to have the privilege to be part of carving their future is something I feel so honored to be trusted with.”
What drew you to Parker School?“I had an absolute vision of my dream school in mind for years. I was actually in the midst of creating my own school, but I ran into road blocks including financing, location, etc. Midway through last year, I decided that I need to find my dream work environment, and that maybe it already existed. When I interviewed at Parker, it checked each box for everything I was looking for in a school: absolutely for real hands-on learning, professional and creative colleagues that want to work as a team, supportive administration, a school setting where using the outdoors is encouraged, and a place that wouldn’t laugh at me for having a tree with fairy lights in my classroom! But the real kicker for me was the room with the snowshoes. I literally teared up when I saw that little gear room in the Discovery Center. I knew that this was my home.”
Describe your educational philosophy? “I really believe every child wants to learn and is a natural learner. As an educator, I pride myself in getting to know my students personally and figuring out what each of them needs to be successful. I absolutely love creating lessons that are engaging and bring out the best in each child. My number one goal is to spark joy and love of learning in every student. Every child has it…it’s up to us to find each child’s unique key.”
What do you like about teaching at Parker? 
“Everything. I. Am. Serious!!! I was amazed by our opening days when staff shared ideas and goals for the year. The creativity and thought that is put into what happens in each classroom is profound, and it makes me want to do my very best here. I love how I can use the outdoors, and that there is no deadline for every lesson taught. I can use the gifts I have to offer, and I feel appreciated for being me. I love this! Everyone has been super supportive and loving. The way in which Jennifer Gresens checks in with me to support me is so refreshing. I feel so incredibly grateful to be here.”
What do you enjoy specifically about the age and developmental stage of the kids you work with?
“Fourth and fifth grade is such a special age. Children have such creative minds, and at this age they are able to explore so much, ask critical thinking questions, and develop their own opinions on topics. I love that I can be working with a student or small group and know that other students working independently are also trying their best. It is so much fun to be with this group of kids. They are sharing so many wonderful ideas and taking projects to levels I never dreamed of when starting them!”
What is happening in your classroom right now?
“We are beginning to really dive into our Native American unit, starting with the Iroquois Nation. Students are working in groups and researching what it was like to be a Native American, including daily life, clan structure, use of land, and so much more. They have many options to make their findings come alive for their classmates including a newscast, dressing up and acting like their character, and more. Each team is also creating a model of what their tribe’s village looked like. We will be going to the Iroquois Indian Museum, and we will also be working with a local wilderness school to build a wigwam. In math, we are studying volume, area, and perimeter, and reviewing times tables in many different ways. Reading journals are a significant part of our class and give students the opportunity to write in depth about what they read. I spend a great deal of time responding thoughtfully to their entries each week, and I very much enjoy interacting with them in writing too! On Fridays, we have set aside time to go outside and explore about animal architects. Last week we found and identified seven different types of spider webs.”
What are your hopes and dreams for the school year?
“My hope is that we continue to grow as a community of learners in a very deep way. I really want to have a significant and positive impact on each student I teach. I hope that they see how special they are, and that they are all contributing members to our school community and the greater world.”