Michaelknight Zayas, Lead Teacher of the New Britain High School and Health Academy loves to teach. He was born and raised in New Britain, speaks English and Spanish. Michaelknight is a product of the New Britain School system all the way from elementary school through college where at CCSU he received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and then a masters in Educational Leadership. He became a teacher at NBHS in 2006. Michaelknight says that he is proud to be lead teacher of the NBHS Health Academy now in its 5th year where they offer 11 courses for students with the CNA and EMT class to get certification out of high school and our PLTW Honors track and accelerated track that offers students the chance to earn college credits out of high school.
- Michaelknight, did you always know that you wanted to serve others and help today’s youth?
I actually had no idea what I wanted to do until my senior year at New Britain High School when I signed up for my first honors course. I took honors human biology with Mr. Ramsey who always talked about how much he enjoyed teaching and I said to myself “I can do that!” My interest in Biology was already there so teaching would be a perfect fit.
- How did you handle the bumps in the road? Were there any moments when you wondered if all your hard work was worth it?
Bumps on the road I saw as hurdles. I just had to jump over the hurdle. Sometimes I said to myself, do I want to hate my job? Do I want to work 12-16hr shifts like my mom? Do I want to be that person that said “I wish I did this different? Or “Why didn’t I listen to advise?” No. I had the mind set that NO ONE works harder than me, no one will out work me or prevent me from having my career job. I knew that after 6 years of working in a grocery store with adults, I never wanted to work with them again in that capacity. I wanted to work with students that had drive, creativity and imagination. The hard work and bumps in the road was always worth it to me.
- I’m wondering if you can help us understand what you attribute your success to.
I attribute my success to my morals and importance of being humble. My mom is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the lifestyle of keeping things simple, treating others as you want to be treated and knowing that God will never put more burden on a person than they can handle. I understood at an early age that in life there are things we can’t control. We have to deal with the anxieties of today because tomorrow will have its own worries. I took things one day at a time, because that is how I would get through struggles to reach my goal of being a teacher.
- What do teens need today more than anything else?
I tell teens something very simple; they only have two options in life; they step up (and do what they dream or would always want to become) or step down (help or work for someone else’s success in their life.
- What would you tell a teen who was struggling?
Think about what you can control in your life. Also to realize that as a teen three things need to be considered. Your attitude, your behavior or mindset, and your friends. Or, ALL THE ABOVE. Sometimes all need to change, sometimes just one needs to change, but SOMETHING needs to change or things will never improve.
- Michaelknight, what else do you want to tell us about what you do and what you want to eventually be doing?
I want to be a better teacher than I was the year before. I want to help NBHS be a better school than it was before. I never want students to think that I am just going to “day off” in class. I wake up because I am one word away from telling a student something that may change them for the rest of their life. Eventually I don’t know what I will be doing. I love the classroom and I love teaching.
- Can you please share with all of us something else that I should have asked you?
You should have asked why do you love New Britain, Ct and why do you still live in New Britain? I earned everything I have because of a town that offered me so much. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the boys and girls club of New Britain. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have parks and recreation activities in the summer. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have awesome teachers at NBHS. Sadly many don’t feel that way including colleagues that I work with. They would never send their kids to New Britain Public schools. I only say this to them, “Good, we don’t want your kids.” We have students that deal with real world situations in New Britain and that’s what makes them strong resilient people. I have a student who emailed this winter break to thank me for writing her a letter of recommendation because she was accepted to Quinnipiac University and University of Hartford. So if you can make it at NBHS you can make it anywhere. In addition New Britain has to do it with only having $11,000 to educate per pupil. CREC has an average of $17,000 per pupil expense. Not to mention the cost to cover over 1,300 students in New Britain that attend magnet schools. Once again, that is life, it is not fair and there are things I cannot control.
- How can people get in touch with you if they have additional questions?
They can find me at 110 mill street, New Britain High School. They can also call me at 860-225-6300 ext. 337.
Thanks for your time MichaelKnight and keep up the good work! Our youth needs more people like you!
Author and Speaker of the Granddaddy’s Secrets teen leadership book series.
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