By Caitlin Marsch, Current Staff
Over the years, many West Bend High Schools students and teachers alike have learned in Tony Zappia’s classroom. Now, a new generation of students in Madison are experiencing his teachings.
After teaching history, government, War and Peace, and global studies courses at West Bend West High School for 20 years, Tony Zappia moved to Madison, Wisc., and has been teaching at Madison West High School for the past 16 months. The Current caught up with him to have a discussion about his new experiences living and teaching in Madison.
Why did you move to Madison?
I left West Bend for a few reasons, both personal and professional. Personally, my daughter is now a junior at UW-Madison in an academic setting that is ideal for her at 17. My son goes to my high school and is thriving. He wanted a more diverse and multicultural environment than West Bend could offer. Professionally, I was exhausted from the constant change of policy, revolving door of administrators and the top down mentality.
Why did you choose to teach at Madison West?
I didn’t choose West, actually. I got a job in Middleton and the next day West called and they were very complimentary of my accomplishments in teaching and wanted me to be a part of their school. It’s nice to feel appreciated.
How does this differ from your past experience?
It could not be more different than West Bend. We are 52% white, 18% Hispanic, 13% African American, 10% Asian, 6% multiracial and other. We have every type of students you can imagine and your pronoun is important. We have some of the highest achieving students in the country, and at same time, a whole population that struggles to pass. It makes it very challenging because as a freshman teacher we don’t separate by ability, it’s our jobs as educators to differentiate for each of our students. We don’t like separating kids.
“Madison West called and wanted me to be a part of their school. It’s nice to feel appreciated.”
Would you say your new job has changed you?
My new job has changed me in many ways. It’s expanded my opinions on many topics including teaching culturally responsible, with equity for all. White privilege and the history of institutional racism is much more prevalent in my teaching. I’ve also become much more aware of the trauma many of my students have in their daily lives, from not getting the necessities of life, to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Our school prides itself that all are welcome, yet it can be a difficult place to navigate.
What are your favorite things about the city of Madison?
We live two miles from Camp Randall, so a lot more football games. We are three miles from State Street for shopping, food, people and the Capitol. Music, theater, sports and every type of food you can imagine. Bike paths are everywhere and much more efficient, rarely do I drive. We have a bus stop 100 yards away that my daughter rides every day to UW. The campus is fantastic, always a vibe, and hanging at the Union Terrace on summer nights. That’s the half of it.
Have you gained any new opportunities since joining the Madison community?
Definitely going out more, but overall, teaching keeps me very busy. I’m playing soccer more often at the UW fields, and I can walk to my yoga class.
How has the transition from West Bend to a bustling city felt?
My wife and I graduated from UW and we always loved the city. It’s a very progressive and accepting place to live, I see ethnicities from all over the world every day in my classroom, grocery stores, restaurants. It’s such a rich culture.
Is there anything you miss about West Bend?
My former colleagues and students. Extremely talented people, staff and students alike. I miss Sunday soccer, the Duck Derby and all those soccer teams I coached over the years.
(Top image: Tony Zappia stands in front of his home in Madison. Photo courtesy of Zappia.)