Student Nomination Story

My 10th-grade history teacher, Mr. Chad Zwolinski, has changed my life. His course, AP United States History, was the first Advanced Placement class I've ever taken, and he was the most perfect teacher for this class. From the very first day of class, Mr. Z showed his sense of personality that made me feel welcomed. I felt so nervous walking into a class that I had little knowledge of, but he greeted me at the door by saying a simple, "Hey kiddo!" I had only talked to him once prior to the first day, but these two simple words changed my attitude entering the class. It showed me that he remembered who I was, which made me feel that I was important. There are simple memories I have of Mr. Z that stand out the most. I'll never forget one winter day when I had a terrible start to my morning. I had a meeting with my counselor that made me feel so terrible about myself it brought me to tears. Right after the meeting, I had to attend Mr. Z's class, but I was so overwhelmed by emotions that I could not focus. I had not said anything when I entered class, I had not asked to step outside, and I worked to compose myself, but the tears still filled my eyes. Mr. Z noticed something was wrong and called me out into the hall. He then proceeded to tell me that it was okay to cry, and it was okay to feel sad. All my life I've felt that school is a place where I should be composed, but hearing him tell me that was refreshing. He made the school feel like such a safe place, and it was somewhere I could be myself. The class itself was very challenging. It forced students to get out of their old writing habits and develop skills to write within the college level. We followed the curriculum through a textbook, but never once was his class boring. Mr. Z made sure that students were engaged every second of class. There was never a day I wasn't excited to attend APUSH. He would lecture with interactive notes and would do silly things to help us remember more of the difficult concepts. I can't begin to name all of the ways he would teach his class, but no two days were the same. He was funny, incredibly intelligent, and cared for his students as I'd never seen before. I can easily say I've never had a teacher care more about their students than Mr. Z. He is extremely respectful of students' lives outside of school. He gets to know each individual as more than a student and has always asked about my extracurriculars and parts of my life that other teachers have never asked me about. He demonstrated this with every student he encountered, and I am still fascinated with how he has the ability to remember so much about each student, including students he's had in the past. I have learned many life lessons from Mr. Z. I've learned things like the true value of time management, or that it's okay to fail as long as you keep improving. The lessons I've learned from his teaching are not only applicable to school and learning, but to my daily life. He's not only influenced me as a student but as a leader. I am positive I will carry with me all the lessons I've learned from him throughout my entire life. On a final note, I would love to share a project that Mr. Z has successfully developed. As a history teacher, Mr. Z is very in tune with the world we live in. He respects everyone he comes across and understands that he can use his platform as a teacher to inspire others. Mr. Z worked to create a new course offered in our curriculum, called Ethnic and Gender Studies. He understands that some concepts are taught in history classes, but it's important that students have the opportunity to dive deeper into these studies. Although I have not had the opportunity to take the class, I've heard an abundance of positive feedback. I think teaching these topics takes bravery, because of how opinionated many are and come in with a bias. But Mr. Z is compelling and is willing to break the barriers of society to lead a new, accepting generation. Mr. Z has changed my life, without a doubt. He shines a light like no other, and I feel honored that I had the opportunity to hear all of the wisdom he got to share.

Holly McDonald

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.