Influencer of the Week: Donald Parm, Olympia High School

Parm has been teaching English at Olympia since the school's founding in 2001.

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  • | 1:05 p.m. January 22, 2020
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English teacher Donald Parm has a long history of serving the educational needs of students in Orange County. Parm has worked in the OCPS system for 23 years and has been at Olympia since the school first opened in 2001. He’s served the school in numerous roles and his dedication to his students led to him being named the school’s Teacher of the Year. 

What do you love most about your school?

I love the community we have at Olympia. I won’t sugarcoat it and say everyone is always smiling and positive. It is a place, however, where people will try to lift your spirits.

What brought you to Olympia?

I had been teaching middle school for three years, but knew I wanted to teach high school. Olympia was opening and directly across the street from Chain of Lakes Middle School. High school was going to give me the opportunity to teach some of my favorite literature as well as coach.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

By far, the best part of the job is getting to know students and watching them grow as thinkers. Not much in life compares to the “aha moments.” Seeing a student’s eyes light up with joy when they finally get it is a treat few people get to experience.

What motivates you and pushes you to do your best?

My students are my motivation. I know a lot of their future depends on how well I do my job. Their success in writing and thinking for college courses is my responsibility. Along with that is making helping them to see, through literature, they are not alone. I hope understanding the shared human experience will make the rough patches ahead a little easier to bare. 

What’s the nicest thing a student or faculty member has done for you?

There is no single thing a student or faculty member has done for me. Students often use my ugly mug as inspiration and draw pictures of me to hang. The faculty did elect me Teacher of the Year last year. The real “niceness” is the kindness I receive from all entities on a daily basis. 

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I am a roller coaster and theme park freak. In the summers I usually drag my family around the country to ride coasters. I also read and watch way too much television.

What’s your favorite restaurant and favorite meal?

My favorite restaurant is Texas de Brazil — a meat lover’s paradise. Any establishment smart enough to put meat on the salad bar, too, is a place I respect. My favorite meal usually involves red sauce — be it pizza or pasta.

What fun talents do you possess?

I have an evil sense of humor. I love making people laugh at more than just my face. I can defuse situations often by making people laugh. I can also grade essays quickly. If 150 students turn in an essay on Monday, 150 students will have essays back with meaningful feedback on Tuesday.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

If I could travel anywhere it would be around the world riding roller coasters. America has some great ones; but Germany and Japan especially have some rides that call to me.

If you could meet anyone — past or present — who would it be and why?

I would love to sit down with Shakespeare. I want to talk the person who understands the human condition more than most. The talent to tell stories that resonate for centuries is admirable.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

The overly clichéd, being a husband and father. The less so, remaining a fan of Cleveland’s professional sports teams. Both show I have unwavering loyalty and love.

Are you a cat or dog person, and why?

Dogs for sure. What are cats other than sneaky and conniving creatures? Dogs are unconditional love and can sense your emotional well-being. They also tend not to jump out from behind things to frighten you or bring you dead animals to show their love.

If you were stuck on an island, what book would you want with you?

The Complete Works of Shakespeare — it even has a story about being stuck on an island. Every emotion is in the work. Every type of person you may encounter in life is in that book.  

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to fly. I have a love of speed and heights and the wind blowing through the hair I don’t have. I’d also not have to sit in I-4 traffic.

What is your favorite quote/mantra that you live by?

My personal mantra is to just be nice. So many people are met by or filled with hostility. It is so easy, sadly, to make someone’s day better with a smile or kind gesture. Tolerance and acceptance would be so much easier if we could just be nice.


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