Jim Baumstark is the RZJHS Math Department Co-Chair. He currently teaches AP Statistics/Advanced Topics, Intro to Calculus and AP Microeconomics. You can sometimes catch Mr. Baumstark playing trombone or singing in the Performing Arts showcase each winter. He also is the math team oralist coach and the DECA team faculty adviser.
Where did you work prior to teaching Mathematics at RZJHS? I was a finance executive at Allstate. My “business world” experiences included actuarial consulting, financial product development, corporate finance and investment and risk management.
What brought you to Rochelle Zell? I did my student teaching at Niles West High School. When a position opened up at Rochelle Zell, my department chair recommended me for the job. This was a great opportunity that suited my goals and objectives perfectly – part time, a child-care friendly schedule and location, and colleagues that would help me learn the ropes of teaching.
You were one of the chaperones on the 2017-18 Israel trip. What are two aspects of that experience that stick with you and why? One thing that sticks with me was how I really felt the weight of ancient history everywhere. My previous sense of what was “historic” was something like walking the Freedom Trail in Boston. I also feel I finally now have a good understanding of the complicated way that nationality, religious identity and ethnicity intertwine in a tiny country of 14 million people.
What did it mean for you as a teacher to see students in a new context while on the Israel trip?
My favorite part of being a chaperone was the ability to get to know the entire senior class as only a handful had been previous students of mine at the time of the trip. And then I had 23 of them second semester in AP Economics. The shared experience we had in Israel really got that class off to a great start.
What has it meant for you to be involved in the musical showcase both as a trombone player and singer? Music has always been an important part of my life. In fact, most people don’t realize I double majored in math and music at Brown. But the biggest reason I participate in those things at RZJHS is that I feel it is important for students to see their teachers in contexts outside of the classroom. I also firmly believe in the value of liberal arts and being well rounded – so in a sense I’m just practicing what I preach.
What advice do you have for prospective families? I would highlight the uniquely high-quality relationships that students and teachers develop here. The teaching and learning that can take place when the right relationships exist is truly transformative.
What do you do when you aren’t teaching? I primarily try to still spend time being “dad” to my now high-schoolers Matthew and Maggie. This means spending lots of time at the softball field and in various music venues.
Volunteering also takes up a fair share of my time. I was elected to the District 34 school board in Glenview last year, and I also serve as treasurer for two non-profit organizations affiliated with my kids’ activities. And finally, I enjoy cooking, playing trombone in the Glenview community band and singing at my local church.
What is on your wish list for the next 5-10 years with Rochelle Zell?
I would love to see the enrollment at our school double over the next 10 years. RZJHS is such a special place – it would be great to share it with more families.
Tell us about a proud moment you have experienced at RZJHS. There is a lot to be proud about with our school. But without a doubt, my proudest moments at RZJHS occur every May during the Siyum for our graduating seniors. I can think of no other event which so perfectly captures the essence of our students, our faculty and the unique culture of the school.