Lisa Patrizio, Amirsaman Zahabioun
Few students graduate from high school as published authors. Fewer still have already published work in their second language. But Amirsaman Zahabioun has done both.
The senior at Myers Park High has written a book to guide his peers to mastery of English grammar and literature. The Complete Guide to High School English Literature was self-published through Amazon at the end of December and is a viable supplement to the English curriculum.
"This is a real resource," said Principal Mark Bosco. "Sometimes we miss things in the content with writing and grammar, and he created this to fill in the gaps."
Sam understands the challenge of learning a new language. He and his family moved from Persia (Iran) to Illinois when he was 13 and his family speaks Persian, or Farsi, at home. They moved to Charlotte a year later and Sam entered Myers Park as a freshman English learner. He quickly moved to Honors English I for second semester and into the International Baccalaureate (IB) program his sophomore year.
"I didn't know about all the levels, but I challenged myself and I learn rapidly," Sam said. "When I came here, I got the feeling it was where I wanted to be. Here, there are diverse courses, great teachers and IB. I absolutely love it."
Lisa Patrizio was Sam's Honors English teacher and has mentored him throughout his high school career. He dedicated his book to Patrizio, calling her "phenomenal."
"He told me about the book in the fall and gave me and Mr. Bosco a copy when it was published," she said. "I got really emotional when I saw it. I've worked for 23 years in CMS and this is a career highlight."
The book is divided into three sections – Language Anatomy, Reading Literature & Preparation for Argumentation and Literary Criticism – covering a range of topics from basic grammar and reading strategies to essay analysis. Examples are analyzed through Shakespearean quotations, which are in the public domain, and case studies.
"The book is excellent because it shows vertical alignment and is so comprehensive," Patrizio said. "For a student to understand vertical alignment is so beyond his years. It shows growth and you can't ask for more than that."
Sam took copious notes in his classes and said he had enough material at the end of his sophomore year to contemplate writing a workbook. But he added another year's content – more than 50 percent was gleaned from IB material – to create a more comprehensive product. In his spare time, Sam acquired a monopoly on honor societies as founder and/or an officer of the English, Spanish, science and math national honor societies and the Evolution Club, which works with Montclaire Elementary.
Patrizio praised Sam's work ethic and said he pushes himself, maybe too much. Sam acknowledged he is driven by many interests and sets a high standard for himself.
"I get satisfaction from what I do, that great feeling that pushes you forward and motivates you to keep growing," he said. "I don't want to look back and think I could've done better but the level I desire, I can never achieve. There's always room for improvement."
Sam has a long list of college majors he is considering and is especially interested in linguistics. In addition to Persian and English, he studied Spanish at Myers Park and talks with his Spanish-speaking neighbors to stay in practice. He said he can see himself adding a fourth language and he is currently learning sign language.
"I think communication is the one thing we all need to master, whatever field you're in," Sam said.
The University of Chicago is Sam's first choice for his post-secondary education and it has the oldest linguistics department in the country. Other favorites are Duke, Davidson and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he also has applied to Harvard.
Sam said publishing his book has been a highlight of his high school career and he is excited about the positive reception it has received.
"It's like a miracle," he said. "My whole intention is helping people in high school English and literature. I would be really happy if it were used to somehow benefit the school."
The book sells for $20 on Amazon.com but Sam only set a fee because it was an Amazon requirement.
"He truly isn't in it for any monetary gain," Patrizio said. "He felt so well-prepared, he just wanted to share that with others."
Bosco said he and his staff are going to look at how the book can enhance the current curriculum as a reference tool. Sam said he can make any needed revisions to make it more useful to students.
Bosco said he is astonished at how far and how fast Sam has made the journey from English learner to English teacher.
"Now he's analyzing our language and our own curriculum," he said. "I'm just still in awe."