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  • Writer's pictureOscar Amos

Taking on Transformative Experiences: An Interview with Mr. Bartz.

After jumping at the opportunity to join Parker School’s faculty in January of 2023, Mr. Bartz left the Bay Area and took the role of temporary history teacher and debate coach. Mr. Bartz had experience in coaching academic extracurriculars from his time as the coach of the  Future Problem Solvers team at his former school. Upon arriving at Parker, Mr. Bartz immediately began his journey as a debate coach, eager to learn alongside the debate team. Since then, he has facilitated opportunities for the debate team that span from our neighboring islands, all the way to states as far as Idaho. In this interview, we explore Mr. Bartz’s journey to becoming a debate coach and his perspective on this transformative experience.


1. What has been the most interesting thing that you have learned from your time as Parker’s debate coach?

So, I was on the student end in high school. I did speech in high school, and I never realized how much work goes in on the backend to create everything–-tabroom, running the tournaments, travel arrangements. It's been interesting for me to see how the sausage is made when it comes to speech and debate and how the organization is run.

2. What are some values you believe in, and how do you strive to implement them in the classroom?

I think one of the first ones is mindfulness. It's something really important to me, just being able to pause, take a breath, and not react to any given situation. I think we live in a very reactive society that demands that you say something, do something, just always go, go, go, go, go. We're rarely reminded to breathe and pause. So one way I do that in my classroom is I start every class with my seventh graders with a minute of mindfulness.

3. What inspired you to pursue a career in education, particularly focusing on humanities?

So funny enough, my first job out of college was investment banking. I thought that in order to prove to other people that I was successful, I needed to make a lot of money. Then, I realized that wasn't true for me. I had some really great teachers throughout my career–some English teachers in high school really had an impact on me and I kind of always thought it was something I was interested in. So I went and taught Efor a year in Spain, actually in Madrid. I taught English and I really enjoyed that. Before you're a lead teacher, you do assistant teaching, where you learn how to be a teacher. So I did that, then became a lead teacher, and then got my master's in education. Now I'm here.

4. As a teacher, your responsibilities persist past the standard school day. What strategies do you employ to balance personal and professional time?

I mean what I'm hearing from that question is work-life, balance, which is huge in my opinion. An unhealthy work-life balance and what I might also call workaholism, not being able to stop working, in my opinion, is the number one threat to the teaching industry. It's something I'm very passionate about. The reason I was able to come in [to coach the debate team] halfway through the year was because I actually took a break from teaching. I found that while I was teaching during the pandemic and going to grad school I burned out a bit. Now, I set a time every day when I stop working. . Although there's the occasional function I have to do, most days I stop working around three or four. I would say it's my number one strategy.

5. As a retired speech competitor, what was your favorite speech you ever gave, and why?

Probably “The Auditioners.” It was a speech I did in my junior year. I just had a lot of fun doing it. I also did really well; I took second in the state with the speech. The speech is basically a bunch of different people trying out for a play with varying experiences, and hilarity ensues because it's just a lot of weird people. There are some funny moments, but then there's this one character who keeps trying to audition. It's kind of about the purposes of theater, the purposes of speech and drama, and how it can transport you to another world.

6. What has been the most applicable skill that your history in speech has provided you with?

Being able to get up in front of a room and speak to people in an eloquent manner. I use it every day for my job in teaching. I have to get up in front of a room and, you know, middle schoolers can be a tough audience. So, being able to keep going, being able to organize my thoughts has been an important skill. I think the biggest thing too is just that speech helps you understand how to package your message clearly and say it in a way that people will hear.

7. If you could teach any class, what would it be called, and what would it be about?

I did a seminar on this at my last school and it's a class called Rap is Poetry. We would talk about the similarities and differences between Shakespeare and Tupac or Shakespeare and Biggie. There's this Ted Talk video called Hip Hop is Shakespeare and he raps Shakespeare, talks about how Biggie and Tupac’s lines are poetry, and how they're the same thing.

8. Teaching history, how do you encourage your students to care about events that happened long ago?

I think the through-line approach to history is the idea that the past directly informs the present. What's happening right now is a product of what happened before. So I don’t just focus on the past, but I also talk about what's happening now. For example, I've done this project with my seventh graders where we talked about Christopher Columbus like he was a pretty messed up guy. He committed genocide against indigenous people. Then we talk about how that's still happening today. There is a Columbus statue in New York. Should that statue still be left up? So we look at present-day problems and how they connect to the past.

9. Having walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago, there are bound to be a myriad of transformative memories. What was your most profound story or takeaway from such a journey?

Yeah, I have one that comes to mind. I might get a little emotional when I say this, but that's okay.

So on the Camino, I traveled alone. You walk with people part of the time, though, which is part of the experience. If you want to, you can stay in these things called albergues, which are like hostels. Because you're technically a pilgrim and it's a pilgrimage, the albergues are cheap and temporary for you as you go along in the Camino. Every town has various albergues, some that are really nice, some that are not very nice and they're usually pretty affordable. The one that I stayed at was run by a group of nuns and it was donation-based to stay there, which is pretty unique. Usually, it was like 10 euros to stay in one of these places. But they just asked for a donation, like “How much can you give?” I stayed there for one night, and they provided dinner for all of us, which is also very unique. Usually, you have to buy your own food. They provided us with dinner and then they sang to us, all these nuns sang us a song. There were probably 30 or 40 of us staying there and then people from all over the world sang songs from where they were from. I'm getting goosebumps right now, but sitting in this room and everyone was just singing–it just blew me away.

10. What would you say to someone eager to join Speech & Debate but is hesitant due to a lack of confidence?

I would say try it. Give it a shot. Try it for a month. I was hesitant, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to join. For me also, it wasn't like when I joined I immediately knew that I wanted to keep doing it and was immediately in love with it. It's a skill, a muscle that you have to build and I don't think you have to be confident to go into speech and debate. Speech and debate will give you confidence–you'll develop confidence as you grow along.

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1 Comment

Melinda Mizuno
Melinda Mizuno
May 09

What a great interview! Great questions and really thoughtful responses. I really appreciate getting to know a coworker in this way. Mahalo!

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