Zack Boatman


Boatman in the News


Zack Boatman’s Life

Boatman at Work

As a Kid

I was born in Cordell, Oklahoma in 1965 to Wayne and Abby Boatman. Dr. Couch is rumored, at the birth, to have said, “That’s a big nose and some tiny ears.” My little brother joined the family a little less than two years later. I grew up in the best of all worlds, surrounded by a community of friends and family.

Cordell is a small town in western Oklahoma and is a vibrant agricultural community. Having one of my closest childhood friends living on a farm in Bessie was a wonderful way to grow up. Growing up with Bryan and his family instilled in me that the farmer is one of the bedrocks of America and that the importance of agriculture can not be overestimated.

We moved to “The City” when I was 12. It was as tough transition for me. Moving to Edmond was a slide over to suburban life. My Aunt Pat and Uncle Pete lived there and, as they have eight children, I was surrounded by all my cousins and their friends. I knew most of the rules for surviving a move and immediately found a group of friends.

My high school English teacher suggested that I go to a small college in Texas that she had attended. The idea of going to a school in Texas was almost too much for an “Okie” to comprehend. To this day it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Austin College was the perfect college for me and it truly changed my life. The friendships I found there have lasted a lifetime and the desire to be a teacher was fostered by the amazing teachers and the classes they offered. I was able to turn a five year Master’s program into a seven year program and I enjoyed every minute of it.

As a Son and Brother

My family deserves a separate section in my biography. My Mom and Dad might just be the best parents on the planet. I had a wonderful childhood and the things that I have learned from them are too numerous to even begin to list. My dad is a landman and from him I learned the importance of hard work and perseverance. He is one of the strongest men I know, and I draw most of my courage from that example of strength. I also know how important the oil industry is to this country as it has provided a wonderful life for my family. My mom is a teacher and I’m fairly certain that is how my love of teaching was instilled in me. I know my caring and concern for others comes from my mom and her strength in doing what she loves. My brother is one of the best friends I could ever have in my life. The path he has taken throughout his life has truly made me realize how important it is to take risks and follow my own heart. I couldn’t have it any better and my family is one of the most important things in my life.

As a Husband

This is quite new for me as I just married this summer. Michelle is the part of me that I have searched for during most of my life. It is a strange and wonderful journey that I have embarked upon and each and every day is better than the last.

As a Teacher

Santa Fe Public Schools 2004-2008

Santa Fe High School

I have been working at Santa Fe High School for four years. During these four years I have strived to hone the paperless classroom that I started during my year in the Dallas Independent School District. I have served as a site coordinator and as a team leader. I have found the bureaucratic process of developing the Small Learning Community (SLC) to be difficult, but hope the results of this effort will be rewarded. As a teacher, it is difficult to invest in a program when so many others have come and gone before it. As the site administrator, it was amazingly difficult to implement a program when so many teachers were not invested in its success. I enjoyed the challenge, and have a decidedly stronger appreciation for administration.


Capshaw Middle School

I worked at Capshaw for a few months as an art teacher. It still remains one of the best jobs I’ve experienced. Teaching art was the single most creative time I’ve had as a teacher. I had students that were eager to learn and willing to explore any medium. I have tried to emulate this creative momentum in my English classroom by giving the students thematic projects based on their choice of literature. These projects are developed, designed, and graded by the students in the classroom. My role is to facilitate when they need inspiration and to make sure that they are investing in their learning. Students have myriad ways to succeed. If I impose too much of my influence, then I have failed to impart what I learned in that art classroom at Capshaw—that art should be a part of every student’s life.

Willow School 2003-2004

This was my first private school job in New Mexico. I was hired to teach Math and Science to seventh and eighth graders. The Willow School was amazing in its approach to education. The main philosophy of the school was that Art should be the main focus and that all the other disciplines should follow in that vein. I had a wonderful time creating projects for the students that would stretch both their creative and academic muscles. The students seemed so willing to engage when the idea behind the instruction was based on the idea of creativity and art. I learned a lot, especially when I was teaching Science to the first and second grade students.

Though I was hired to teach 7th and 8th grade, on the first day of work I started teaching Science and Math to the fifth and sixth graders as well. About a week after that, I began teaching 1st and 2nd grade Science too. Being educated in secondary education made the transition to elementary quite a challenge. The most difficult aspect was all of the crying, not the teaching. But I did learn from the little ones, especially when it came to teaching Science in concrete terms. Telling a group of first graders that the planets are actually falling through space was a moment of pure “eyes glazing over” that I’ll never forget.

Austin Independent School District 1994-2003

Travis High School

It was during this job that I found the works of Jean Anyon. Her studies on the impact of socio-economic teaching were eye opening and transformational. I also learned at Travis that a bad administration cannot be overcome by excellent teachers. I spent a lot of time trying to understand the idea of culture. I still wonder today if the idea of culture is one of perspective and that if perspective is that of the individual? While I did not grow much at Travis, I did come to better understand the daunting process of college enrollment for my students and the amazing lack of opportunities for first generation students.

Dobie Middle School 1994-2000

I had the best principal at Dobie. Patrick was a fantastic leader and changed the school climate over those four years. I learned a lot from watching his transformational leadership style and still use some of his “tricks” in my classroom, especially when faced with reluctant learners.

Dallas Independent School District 1993-1994

Working in Dallas introduced me to the true meaning of poverty, both institutional and in terms of my students. It was the first time in my life that I was a minority. I worked for and with people whose ideology differed radically from my own. I continually failed at several levels, often at the expense of classroom instruction. I was constantly butting my head against my own cultural perspective and why I was failing to teach a culture of students very different from my mine. When I finally figured out that my cultural perspective was preventing me from teaching effectively, the success rate in my classroom dramatically increased. This was also the moment that I decided to create a “paperless” classroom. I spent a lot of time engaged in conversation with my students that helped me to face my prejudices. I began to see myself in terms of the whiteness that I represented to my students. It was and still is a complicated issue that I face everyday. My time in Dallas taught me how to look at myself and what I represent. That insight has fundamentally changed my life and my teaching. I wish that I could go back and have another chance; but instead I apply the things my students taught me to the work I now do.

Hull-Daisetta Independent School District 1991-1993

This was my first job out of college. A small school in Texas hired me over the phone. I grew up in a small town, so I thought that teaching in a small town would be a great first job. It was probably the best decision I could have made. The town and the people that lived there were wonderful and interesting. It was easy to teach in such a caring community.

I learned a great deal about the interactions between the teachers and administrators, especially the school board and the superintendent. It was during these two years that I realized I loved teaching and public service. I found that I was willing to dedicate my life to the idea of working to make a difference.

As an Academic and Administrator

Federal Grant Coordinator for Santa Fe High School 2005-2006

Last year, while teaching at the high school, I was informed of an administrative position created by a federal grant and requested by administration to apply. I applied and was chosen. Looking back on that year, I appreciate having had the experience, but I also appreciate that it’s over.

The position involved working with the Executive Team – the Superintendent, Associate Superintendents, High School Principals, and Grant Coordinators. I went to meetings with the purpose of representing and expressing the opinions of the teachers at the high school. Under the Small Learning Community (SLC) federal grant, the SLC is to be run and managed by the teachers. In reality, the Executive Team made decisions regarding the implementation of the SLC program. I was charged with spending a $68,000 legislative grant on what the teachers wanted for the classroom. I bought 20 laptop computers, 20 LCD projectors, and 20 palm pilots for the SLC teachers for use in the classroom. I also used a large part of the federal funding to create an after school tutoring program. Through several discussions with small groups of teacher leaders, we determined the best direction for implementing the SLC grant money.

University of Texas at Austin 1999-2000

I was taking a year away from teaching to go to school full time at the University of Texas in Austin when my friend Kevin Rome called me. He was the Assistant Dean of Students at the time. “I need someone to work here part time. How about it?”

“When do I start?”

“Is today too soon?”

I was hired as the director of the largest fundraising program for the Dean of Students office. The job taught me how to deal with companies and people in multiple and different ways. I learned how to fundraise and how to work in a university environment where coordination of different agendas and different personalities was paramount to having a successful fundraiser. I also coordinated with and shared opportunities for fundraising with several local volunteer organizations. I learned two very important lessons in this job: I came to understand that no matter how prepared I thought I might be, I was not as prepared as I thought; and that the importance of communication in the workplace should never be underestimated. Several aspects of my job would have been much easier had I already known the importance of discussion before action. This job did help me to realize that I had made the right choice in pursuing my degree in Higher Education and that the decision-making environment will be a part of my future.

Bleufoods 1999

My friend Cedric called me one day, “I need someone to work in the office for me. How about it?”

“When do you need me to start?”

“Can you start tomorrow?”

Cedric hired me to be the business manager for his international importing company. I worked with an international clientele of limited English speaking ability. I traveled to and participated in international food shows and designed an agenda to specifically market the products. I kept track of and processed orders for several national businesses and coordinated the importing and distribution of international imports. I worked in a small office dealing with a high volume of business. Specifically, I maintained the shipping and accounting books while keeping in constant contact with clientele and the FDA.

As an Alaskan Fisherman

Zola Budd Summer 2004

My friend Matt called me on June 7th. “One of the guys on the boat broke his arm and I need someone to fly out here and help me fish for the summer. You don’t need to bring anything. You can buy your gear in Anchorage. How about it?”

I love to fly fish so I didn’t really think before I told him, “Okay, when do you need me?’

“I’ll send you a ticket for the 10th.” Little did I know what was in store for me. My first day on the boat consisted of hauling in six 200 pound nets full of thousands of sockeye salmon. We also just happened to be fishing in the middle of the ocean during 40 mph winds and 12 foot swells. Having never been on the ocean before it took at least a day until I could hold down a can of orange soda. Matt found this highly entertaining.

It took about two weeks for my fingers to stop bleeding and for Brandon to stop yelling at me and turn his insults to the fish. I knew I had finally become a fisherman in his mind when one day I finally said, “You know, when I started this job, I could barely pull a net onto the boat. But I think I’m pretty much holding my own, so why don’t you just stop yelling at me and let me do my job. Okay?”

He looked at me, kind of startled, and muttered, “I’m not yelling at you anymore. I’m yelling at the fish.” Communication, communication, communication.

I learned much in those eight weeks but the most important thing I learned is that I never again want to work on a fishing boat in Alaska. It was the single most difficult job I’ve ever done.

In Research and Training


My dissertation focuses on the concept of affirmative action and how such a powerful idea reliably has little consistency of definition. Higher education creates and implements policy based on a nebulous construction of what it believes affirmative action might mean. Even the Supreme Court endorses the idea of affirmative action, yet offers no concrete definition of affirmative action or ideal policy for implementation. I think that this lack of consistency is fascinating and I am doing a qualitative study using rhetorical research as the basis of my literature review.

School Professional Development

Federal Small Learning Communities Implementation

Being the site coordinator for this program allowed me to attend excellent professional development conferences and participate in conferences that were not included with our federal agenda, but were necessary for me to learn several aspects of implementing federal grants. These programs created a strong base from which I could do my job as site coordinator. I also learned how to better write grants and work within the guidelines of those grants.

Courage to Teach

This is the one in-service that I have actually liked. Courage to teach brings teachers together to reconnect with the core reasons they became teachers. It was the most influential professional decision I have made.

Development and presentation of a Differentiation Program

As the coordinator of the SLC grant last year, I was asked to present on differentiation. I developed a five hour in-service that integrated best practices in the classroom with innovative differentiation techniques. I am a fan of differentiation and how it allows the teacher to create a supportive, flexible environment for each student in the classroom.

Grants- PIE, PNM

In the course of the past few years I have written and received several educational grants for Santa Fe High School. After writing my first grant, I decided that I could incorporate several of my interdisciplinary ideas if I could convince other teachers on my team to sponsor grants that I would write. This year I wrote and received three different grants that tie core classes together in multiple ways.

I have just completed another grant that is up for review on February 5. This grant will allow me to further the development of my use of non-traditional, visual-spatial manipulatives to address the needs of non-linear, abstract thinkers in my classroom that have customarily been underserved by the system. I have a particularly strong interest in using educational games in the classroom that support problem solving, development of strategic thinking, and the integration and application of knowledge.

Professional Qualifications

Teaching Experience

I am a 16 year veteran of the classroom.

Academic Level

I am currently working on my PhD at the University of Texas at Austin. I have my Masters in Education and a BA in English and Psychology from Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

Classroom Innovations

I think the most important aspects of my professional qualifications are the innovative ideas that I implement in my classroom. Every year I try to develop a classroom idea that will help me achieve my goal of a “paperless” classroom. I also read relevant and current educational theories and practice to ensure that I am constantly challenging my students to become stronger learners and myself to become a better educator.

Professional Memberships

I am a member of the NEA and was at one time a member of two honor societies through their UT chapters. I decided that I did not want to maintain my membership in either of these two societies because I think grading should go the way of the Dodo and to create honor societies based on grades is about as productive as requiring students to take the SATs for admission to college.

My Interests

One of my true passions is glassblowing. It is an important creative outlet for me. Though I have been slowly improving, I view my work through a critical eye and find myself trying to find ways to develop my skills even more. I am probably the only glass artist to break their nose while blowing glass. Lucky for me I had an audience at the time.

I miss sailing. In Austin I sailed my 16’ Hobiecat on Lake Travis every weekend. Being in a landlocked state now, I find myself pining for a windy lake and a great boat.

One of my obscure interests is in the evolution of literature. I think that we stand, as a country, on the cusp of a strange and exciting paradigm shift in literature.