Frank Zamora’s story of immigration and professional success is the kind that helps define the honest pursuit of the American Dream.
“I’m a product of people who poured into me,” he said.
This includes his parents, Mexican immigrants who brought Zamora to the United States in 1995, when he was about 6 years old.
It includes his teachers at Chestatee High, where he graduated before attending the University of Georgia. That’s where his professors helped him continue his maturation.
And it also includes his colleagues and mentors at Johnson High, where Zamora teaches U.S. History and ESOL courses.
“I’m a combination of that,” he said.
Now, at just 30 years old, Zamora has been named the districtwide teacher of the year for Hall County Schools.
“That recognition wasn’t just about me,” he said. “It was about them and all their hard work.”
Zamora said his family has been his motivation all his life. And he understood the American ideal that every generation is meant to have it better than its predecessor.
“I always wanted the sacrifices that my parents made to be worth it,” Zamora said.
He describes his parents as typical of the immigrant working class. His father was a manager for a company that bagged mulch and soil, and Zamora’s mother worked for some time in the local poultry plants.
Becoming an educator was an opportunity for Zamora to return the favors.
“I was going to take full advantage of the American Dream,” he said, adding that teaching allows him to match his passion for education, coaching soccer and being a role model for youth.
Zamora said his own experience as an immigrant in a once-foreign land, trying to learn a new language and customs, is something he is happy to share with his students.
Johnson High has a large Hispanic student demographic, and many of Zamora’s own pupils share similar backgrounds and upbringings. He wants them to become a generation of leaders in the local community.
“I use that as motivation for them to see that it’s possible … so they can see themselves in me,” he said. “If I was able to do it, they can do it.”
Zamora also sponsors the Latino Knights of Service at Johnson High, an extracurricular club that engages in service projects throughout the community, such as litter patrols with Keep Hall Beautiful, visits to the elderly at the Senior Life Center in Gainesville, and assistance to the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.
Zamora said he was shocked and surprised when Superintendent Will Schofield visited him before Thanksgiving to announce the news that he’d be named teacher of the year for the entire school system.
“It was a special moment to see him walk into my classroom,” he added.
But, just as he did when he handed his diploma or bachelor’s degree to his parents to thank them for their support and devotion, Zamora looks to his students in appreciation.
“The impact that students have had on me is really what keeps me going,” he said. “It’s more valuable than any award. That’s really where the payoff is for me.”