Teacher Feature: Christian Czaniecki, Roosevelt High School

"I am hesitant to call myself an expert, but I look forward to any opportunity to push students to explore their individual creativity and to challenge the idea of what they believe themselves to be capable of."

 - Mr. Z

Christian Czaniecki (Mr. Z) is a DC transplant, originally hailing from Pittsburgh, PA. He's been teaching English IV, Creative Writing, and Multicultural Literature at Roosevelt High School for six years and has an array of extracurricular interests and hobbies, including dogs, books, and "building stuff". He has a Bachelors of Arts degree in English, with minors in Creative Writing and History, from West Virginia University, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Z worked as a sous chef and nonprofit fundraiser/organizer. He's currently a finalist for the Fulbright Distinguished Teaching Award. This is his second year teaching the One World Program, and the first year he's had students compete in the College & Career Senior Challenge. In addition to teaching, Mr. Z coaches girls bowling and golf at Roosevelt, and is the regional site coordinator for Just Keep Livin afterschool programs. He's also a part-time carpenter, a part-time poet, and he runs like it’s his job ("even though no one pays me for that"). Mr. Z might be the most multi-faceted teacher we work with, but the impact he's observed with the One World Program is similar to what we hear from our other teachers! 

What’s your favorite part of the One World Program?

The part I appreciate most about the program is the detailed and structured way it introduces and examines the process of creating an argumentative essay. One of the areas I often struggle with is the assumption in our curriculum that students have already mastered the art of writing an essay. There is very little time for examining the different components of an argument in depth while staying within the scope and sequence. The One World Program gives me the opportunity to take time with each area [of argumentative writing] and allows students to draft and revise each step in the process of writing. I have seen students come away from using this program able to translate the lessons into their future [college and career] work.  

How are your students reacting to the program? 

The student reception to the program has been largely positive in both years I have taught it. My students have been engaged by the idea of choosing their own topic for exploration and research, though that comes with its own challenges: Having 20-25 students with a wide variety of topics to keep track of can be difficult, but it is worth it to see how students are exposed to the information surrounding their areas of interest. I am always thrilled when students come away with a new understanding of an area they believed they knew well. I am also always surprised at the level of commitment they exhibit in their research. I have had to pull a few students back from what could have been a paper with 12+ citations.

How have your students responded to the Senior Challenge Academy?

This has been the best part of working with the program. The students who entered the College & Career Senior Challenge are working so hard, and I am incredibly proud of their efforts. They were all hesitant to get involved at first and nervous about the idea of competing against other schools, but they have risen to the challenge in more ways than I could have hoped for. Working with them through the preparation for the event on April 12 has been one of the most rewarding parts of this school year. When I helped facilitate group work during week five of the Senior Challenge Academy, it was incredibly uplifting to see students who were strangers prior to this competition working with each other with such genuine concern and interest in one another’s success. The level of support that the students showed each other was touching.   

Join us on Wednesday, April 12 to celebrate Mr. Z's hard work and the dedication of the four seniors from Roosevelt High School who are presenting on stage at the Howard Theatre! RSVP today!


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