By Emma Gross
Mr. Zencka is the current AP Literature, AP Lang, and Twelfth Grade Literature teacher at MPH. He also teaches an Upper School creative writing elective. After teaching at a high school in Minneapolis, Mr. Zencka and his wife moved to New York a year ago. Zencka’s first job after the move was professor at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
“One of the reasons I like teaching high school English is a lot of the things I do over the weekend are what I am asking kids to do here on weekdays,” said Mr. Zencka. He says he reads a lot of books, writes a lot, and spends a lot of time running around Green Lakes. Mr. Zencka has assigned some of the books he has read to his students, and he takes what he enjoys doing and includes it in what he does with his students.
When asked what books he has read recently, Mr. Zencka replied, “This year I have read a historical novel trilogy. It was about India and China during the Opium Wars.” He described the series as feeling very modern even though it was set during the Opium Wars. Zencka also read a book called Ill Will. Ill Will is a book about two crimes that occurred, one that happened in the past and one that takes place in the present. Both incidents are linked with one man’s memory and view of what happened. Earlier in the year, he read Through the Arc of the Rainforest and decided to use it for his AP literature class. Mr. Zencka read a lot of books this past year.
“In December I decided I wanted to read 50 books this year, so I kept a reading journal. I wrote an entry for every book I read.” Mr. Zencka says one of the books on his list is written in Spanish. His wife is from Argentina, so he has learned quite a bit of Spanish.
“I’ve been putting off the Spanish one because my Spanish is not nearly as good as my English,” Zencka joked. He’s visited Argentina a few times and each time, he says, his Spanish improves little by little.
Mr. Zencka had many interesting experiences before coming to MPH, traveling to Argentina with his wife being one of them. When Mr. Zencka was asked about his previous experiences versus his new career at MPH, he said, “ Yeah, I’ve had a lot of different types of jobs and even before I taught, I worked in criminal justice for a few years and I worked for a newspaper for a while. MPH is very different from the school I had previously worked at in Minneapolis, but in many ways it feels exactly the same. We are reading different books; we are dealing with kids from different parts of the country.” Mr. Zencka said the hardest part of changing schools is getting to know all the individual students and each individual building and place. He says every school is similar in the sense that each place has its own different atmosphere and unique system and that is what makes it the same and different.
Mr. Zencka explained one thing he wants to contribute in his time at MPH: “I want to be the best teacher I can be… there are so many amazing and excellent writers and so I want to do my part to make this a community that is excited about the gifts and the imaginations of a story of the people that live here. I will do whatever I can to make the community and my students excited about their gifts and their works. I want to be a booster of the writing community here.”