Darling’s classroom vs the field

As soon as the bell rings, students are preparing for the next 90 minutes. With their materials in hand, they huddle to discuss the game plan, then practice both inside and outside of school. Constantly learning new things and strategies can be challenging, but working as a team with coaches and others, it is possible.

The only difference between the way Zack Darling runs his algebra classes and his baseball practices is what’s taught during that time frame.

Darling transferred to our school its inaugural year from Vista Ridge High School, working as an algebra teacher, the baseball head coach and the athletic coordinator. He is faced with a task similar to that of many other teachers – working two challenging jobs at the same time.

“I think that [teaching and coaching] are very similar,” Darling said. “I think I run my class like I would a practice. I try to keep things moving and on time. Have the ability for kids to succeed and also fail, let them know that bad things are gonna happen. I think they’re both really natural to me.”

Unlike other schools, our school has many features that make doing multiple jobs and collaboration among faculty and staff easier and more pleasant.

“The the neat thing about [our school] is that we have these teacher houses,” Darling said. “I get to see our math department everyday. Because I get to bounce ideas off them about what went well and what went bad, I feel like I grow as a teacher everyday.”

Because Darling has been at the school since it opened, he has had the unique opportunity to see his students grow as they move up.

“I just like the challenge of [teaching math],” Darling said. “I don’t think of myself as a mathematician, but I think it’s really neat to see kids when they have the ‘it’s a puzzle’ mindset and you get to see them understand the concept. I love [my math students]. They’re doing a good job, it can get difficult.”

Darling is making strides as the baseball coach, leading the team to playoffs in their second year. However, he has learned things from his students that have made him a better coach.

“I think that my biggest improvement as a coach has been just learning kids personalities and learning how to mold my coaching style to them and letting them be themselves,” Darling said. “I had a hard time getting used to that. I know that during my first year as a head coach, I wanted to control everything. We can’t have carbon copies, kids are all different and allowing them to be themselves is important.”

One of the most important things Darling does to help balance his two jobs and his personal life is to keep them separate.

“One of my biggest things is that I try not to take work home with me,” Darling said. “When I get in the car, I’ve got about 20 minutes to reflect. When I get home, to my wife and dogs, it’s all them. I love to hunt, fish and play guitar. I like to barbeque. Anything outdoors, I don’t like to sit around a lot. I think that really helps. It’s really hard to bring that home and let it weigh on you.”

Although the challenge of working two jobs is intense, it is ultimately more rewarding to Darling because of the opportunity to affect more students’ lives.

“As a teacher, I want to see my students grow everyday,” Darling said. “I want to see them improve, see their confidence go up, see them push themselves academically as well as in the community. Baseball wise, I want to see them grow as young men. I’m just really blessed to be here. Seeing the kids and this school grow its own identity, it’s great.”