Saying Goodbye to Mr. Parker


Steffen Parker taking a picture of the White House in Washington D.C. (Photo/Logan Forcier)

Logan Forcier, Staff Writer

Steffen Parker has made a lasting impact on Rice for seven years through his teaching.

“He taught us how to get good composition in photos and inspired my love of photography,” said Jake Broe, a freshman and one of Parker’s advanced photography students. “He also gave good advice for how to get through high school.”

Photography is not the only thing that Parker has impacted at Rice.

“He was patient as I learned to read sheet music better,” said freshman band member Bret Stoneman. “He truly helped grow my love of music.”

He has been teaching band longer than photography and plays many instruments.

“He always did light and sound for all school events,” said music teacher Kevin Ginter, “He was also a good band teacher and we’ll miss him.”

As he goes to his next adventure let us look back on what he has done for the greater Rice community.

Can you list everything you’ve done at Rice?

I’m the instrumental music teacher, so I run the band. I am the photography, graphic design, and film teacher, so I teach those courses, primarily photography of late and we’ve just added advanced photography as a new course for the second semester. I’m the yearbook advisor. So I run that class and make sure that we produce a yearbook and deal with all the aspects of helping the students produce a quality book. I’m the yearbook photographer because we don’t have a student who can do that, so I spend Saturdays and school time taking pictures of every event we have here. I’m the IT person for my colleagues. So when there’s a problem with a computer or something I help students and teachers along those lines. This also means that I’m responsible for maintaining our Wi-Fi on our servers. So I spend some time doing that and it also means that I’m doing a lot of AV work like projectors, video players, and those sorts of things–new monitors and screens…

We’ve made significant changes in the [school] equipment that the teachers get access to here… For some reason, I’m also now the guy that works in dealing with contracts for the copier. We’re working on getting new copiers for the whole school. I help Mr. Townsend (the school custodian) out by mowing the lawns, weed whacking around the building, and during the winter I helped by shoveling the steps and the sidewalks before school in the morning. Mr. Townsend and I are also the ones that set up for assemblies and masses and take care of the PA system in the gymnasium for our events there.

Now what about the things outside of Rice?

I’m not doing any more than any normal person would do. Well, slightly normal person. I have multiple jobs outside of Rice that have ebbed and flowed over the course of the last 50 years. Some of them are seasonal, some of them are every week, some of them are as my time allows me to be available. So luckily I have varied interests and varied skills…I work a whole variety of different things. Some of the longer term ones; I shot fireworks and ran a fireworks company for 42 years. I’ve been involved in hardware stores and do that locally. I’ve been doing that on and off for 50 years. I work at Channel 3 every day after school and sometimes on weekends to help out over there. I’ve been there for 36 years now. I do the water quality for the town of Colchester. Been there 20 years. I do water sampling for the state of Vermont. Been doing that for 29 years or 30 years. I run a website and data management company for music festivals. Been doing that for several decades. My wife and I run a fudge company out of our house that provides fudge for a couple of places wholesale, and we do some little bit of retail around our place. We run a farm together; my wife and I and our children produce pumpkins and Indian corn and sunflowers that we sell or donate every fall to make good use of our land. Jobs I recently let go of involved IT and other things. Worked for the Vermont Principals Association for 20 years. And then of course I volunteer at multiple levels for music festivals, our district festival or Allstate festival or the New England Festival and I serve on two national committees that keep me fairly busy. I’m an editor of a News Journal. I work for a sugaring outfit and do a variety of jobs; my primary two jobs are as a sugar maker and as an editor/publisher for the owner’s books. And I volunteer extensively for the Boy Scouts. This summer I’ll be gone for seven weeks for the Boy Scouts, volunteering across the country–New Mexico, South Dakota, and West Virginia. So just a normal guy.

How many years have you been working at Rice?

This now is seven total I was here. ‘05 to ‘07 helping out with the instrumental music program…and went to Echo [after that]. I worked at Echo Science Center as an educator and facilitator there. So I left here in ‘07 and then I came back here in the fall of 2018 to help the instrumental music program and the band to have a little consistency. Then, when Mr. Pohlen left, I was a pretty good fit for some of the tasks he did and of course, I just kept volunteering for other things to do. Keeps me out of trouble.
What is your favorite thing about teaching at Rice?

Students. Interacting with the students on any level. Music, of course, because that’s true to my heart and a passion that I’ve had for more than five decades. But I enjoy working with kids in photography. I enjoy students I don’t have in class that I just get to know because I see them in the hallway or kids that I run across in chorus or in sports or kids who have had computer problems that I’ve gotten to know and helped out along the way. It’s always for the students. That’s why we do this. That’s why every teacher should do this. For the students.

Do you have a favorite student?

Not a favorite student. There are students that because I see something special or unique or of great interest in them. I like to make sure I have contact with them on a regular basis. But you can’t have favorites. They all deserve my very best.

What do you think your students would say about you?

Nothing good. That I’m different. That I run my classrooms in a manner that’s not the same as lots of other teachers, but I also teach primarily skill-based subjects and not text-based subjects…Music and photography are things that are very hands-on and involve creativity on the part of the student–once the teacher is able to give them some of the technical skills necessary to be creative. So the better I am at preparing my students to be musicians and photographers and filmmakers and graphic designers the further they can take it based on their skill and now they add their creativity to it and go beyond that. So what would my students say about me? I’m hoping that they would think that I was giving them my very best every day.

How many instruments do you play?

More than 30.

What have you decided to do after leaving Rice?

My wife and I have started a nonprofit for a variety of reasons. We kind of had this cosmic alignment. All sorts of things happened within the last year. So we’ve started a nonprofit where we’re raising money to publish books that we’re going to write about the people we meet when we travel the country. We’re going to spend two years and my children’s inheritance as it were. I’ve saved up money over the last 50 years to do this. We’re going to spend two years making two and three week trips–because we can’t leave home or Vermont too long–visiting all of the states except Alaska and Hawaii. We will visit several national parks and other places of interest, trying to meet people and write narratives about them that we can publish on social media to try to get something positive in social media besides all the riffraff that’s in there now. And at the end, we will publish two books and a photo album. Book one will be a collection of the stories that will be for high school and adults, and the second book will be a children’s book based on our travels and adventures. We’re hoping to raise enough money to have them published and printed and distributed to every public library, high school and elementary library in the country. The online photo source and the photo book will go with both of those books. And while we’re doing the social media thing, we’re also going to run a blog that will be designed for third to fifth graders so that teachers can follow us along and use some of the things that we see along our trip as an educational source if they need to. It’s certainly not going to be something that a teacher would do every day but we want to make sure it’s out there in case the teacher is doing a unit on cowboys and we had visited cowboys or whatever. So we’re trying to connect that with the three through five, eight to 10-year-olds that are also interested in the world.

What do you want to be remembered for at Rice after you leave?

I would like my legacy to be that the programs that I’ve helped maintain or improve or restart here continue to provide students with opportunities. I would hate to see that go. I’m hoping the band will continue to grow and that more and more students will become involved. That it will continue to be something that they not only enjoy, but they learn from and are proud of. I’m hoping that the photography and graphic design program here continues and that we continue to have great students like Giles and Lauren and Max and all the kids that I’ve had over the years in photography and graphic design continue to have the opportunity to be creative.
I’m hoping that Rice flourishes as a school because I feel that there’s a lot of things very positive about a student’s four years here that they don’t get in public schools. It’s worth their family’s investment financially and the students’ investment in time and energy to come to Rice because when they leave Rice, I think they’re going to be better prepared for what’s coming at them than if they had come out of most public schools.

Do you have anything else that you want to say to your students before you leave?

Be good. Be safe. Stay out of trouble.