Pyle Middle School Principal Wins Mark Mann Award

September 17, 2008
Pyle Middle School Principal Michael Zarchin Wins 2008 Mark Mann Award

Michael Zarchin, principal of Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, is the winner of this year’s Mark Mann Excellence and Harmony Award. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) gives the award annually to an administrator who has shown an exceptional ability to encourage academic excellence, positive human relations, and strong community outreach. The award is named in honor of Dr. Mark Mann, former principal of Parkland Junior High School, who died in 1988.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast presented the award at a September 17 meeting of MCPS administrators and supervisors.

In a letter notifying Zarchin of his selection, Weast said, “You have made your school an exceptional place where students can and do succeed. The selection committee members were particularly impressed with the core values shared by students, staff members and parents at Pyle, where a passion for learning is exhibited in a nurturing and respectful environment.”

Zarchin has worked with MCPS since 1992, first as a counselor at Poolesville and Northwest high schools and then as assistant principal at Kingsview Middle School, before becoming principal of Pyle in 2004.

Pyle Middle School, named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2006, has developed four core values initially identified and agreed upon by the staff and adopted by students and parents. They provide basic standards for behavior and have been a driving force for making decisions.

Pyle’s core values are:
Demonstrating a passion for learning.
Encouraging academic and personal growth.
Sustaining a nurturing and respectful environment.
Honoring diversity.

Pyle Middle School is characterized by a shared sense of purpose and commitment. Zarchin and his staff work to provide a supportive learning environment that engages students with a variety of backgrounds and learning styles. “Relationships are extremely important and help make our large school convey a sense of family,” he says. “We understand that middle school is a time when students will experience a great deal of change, a time when students will test the limits. Our desire is to provide opportunities for students to build resilience and confidence that will enable them to overcome challenges and learn from mistakes. If we do not educate the ‘whole child’, we have failed the students.”

School staff members at Pyle have made a conscious effort to monitor the performance of individual students and provide appropriate support. In the past few years, teachers have taken a critical look at how students are selected for above-level courses. “We are doing a much more effective job seeing beyond the current performance of students and identifying what individuals are capable of accomplishing,” Zarchin says.

Zarchin is quick to praise his staff. “The staff at Pyle could not be more competent, caring or committed to students,” he says. “Our teachers really care about one another and are quick to share a best practice, lesson, strategies and feedback with colleagues.”

The teaching staff also has been quick to adopt the interactive classroom technology that is a feature of systemwide middle school reform. Teachers have worked not only with school system trainers and technology consultants, but also are motivated to collaborate, share their expertise and expand the use of this student-centered technology.

Parent involvement is another key success factor for Pyle, and the school provides numerous opportunities for teachers and parents to connect and to see how their partnership serves students. Many specific events bring parents into the building—not only Back to School Night, sports activities and drama productions, but also International Night, Study Skills Night, meetings to navigate the articulation process and the sixth grade Chesapeake Bay service project showcase.

Zarchin begins many of his staff development meetings with this quote from Marcel Proust: “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” For Zarchin, these words highlight the importance of culturally responsive instruction as well as the importance of learning from the backgrounds and experiences of others.

<<Back to browse