In 2000, A Group Of Parents From Silicon Valley Asked:


Picture of Enrique Coon

Enrique Coon

Summit Everest
Redwood City, California

Subject: English

WHO WE ARE • TEACHERS » Enrique Coon

Tell me about yourself and why you teach?

I am a mom of two young boys and came to teaching logistically. I wanted a career with a schedule loosely aligned with their school schedule.Being a parent myself helps me see my students in a whole different kind of way. Realizing they bring everything from home; that they are whole people. I care about them with that in mind. I try to approach them and teach in that way. I really care about human formation, how people grow and develop. I like being a part of that process and being connected to people. There’s a way in which teaching makes so many of the world's challenges and complications so clear through the lives of your students and the difficulties they face, but being a teacher helps me feel as though I’m doing something towards making things better, even if I don’t always get to see the final product.

Why do you teach this subject? (English)

I teach English because I love ideas. Ideas are maybe the most powerful things in the world at our disposal. Because of that I think that clear, fact-based thinking is very important. We live in a world where there’s a ton of information, and it’s not always reliable. Being able to take in information, process it, and communicate it effectively is maybe the most important thing. This is true at a personal level and also publicly and professionally.

What makes teaching at Summit different from other teaching experiences?

I love block scheduling, the idea of longer periods to witness and support students is great. I think PLT (personalized learning time) is also smart because they have actual time to work in school. Those longer periods of time are really valuable for my students. Also, the way we organize a student’s lessons using the PLP (personalized learning platform).Students also have lots of opportunities to collaborate, which is great. 

Talk to us about your mentor group. How has mentoring changed your teaching experience?

In general, I appreciate the relational approach. At other schools, the students move through your classroom in set, short, periods, and then they are gone. Whereas we’re able to relate more to the kids. There’s a relationship that develops through the extra time spent together. Mentor group are the strongest example of that. Three times a week, for several hours a week, it is not my job to transfer knowledge. I don’t need to worry about that at that time. It gets to be about supporting them explicitly. I can feel that they can trust that in a different kind of way. I mentor ninth graders. It’s just me and them-- we come to figure out who they want to be here. It’s a really special experience.

What has been your best moment as a teacher?

I had a student that didn’t communicate very much. He was very quiet and always doing what he shouldn’t be doing- never listening, never responding. I kept talking with him, treating him like anyone else. I communicated with both his parents and his mentor. It took a while, but he started talking more and participating. Now he’s completing a project as part of a special class. It’s been a big academic progression and I see a sense ownership of his work now.

How does Summit support you as a whole person?

There are schedule demands which differ from other schools, but I feel valued as an educator and as a working parent. There is a definite emphasis on work/life balance. There is respect for me by my peers. There’s flexibility and understanding within our team of teachers at the school. There’s a lot of collaboration and supporting each other, asking about my own goals and desires.

What parts of your identity have been most salient to you as a teacher? How have these pieces of yourself helped you to connect further with your students?

Teaching has shown me that I’m an extrovert. I’m not super-outgoing, but I realized I get a lot of energy from being with people all day and connecting with my students. Also, patience is something I need to practice every day, even being accepting of myself. 

What would you tell a potential teacher interested in Summit?

Be ready. Be ready to provide a lot of support to students who are used to structures of traditional school. They may need help acclimating to the freedom they have at Summit. Be ready for the time you will spend with them. It will be more than you experienced working at a traditional school. Have the energy to be present with them. Encourage really explicit norms and procedures. Be clear and consistent in communicating these norms to your students.

What’s been your biggest challenge as your teacher?

Organization and effective use of time. For example, utilizing the 20 minutes between classes and meetings. Those little stretches of time that arise during the day. To really use them effectively is difficult. Scheduling emails and calls to parents, grading, planning. It is easy to feel like the job’s never done!

Where do you see yourself long-term?

I believe in public education, and I want to spend my career being a part of ensuring its success.

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