Mr. Zwolinski creates new course

APUSH teacher offers new elective: Ethnic and GEn


Photo by Erielle Ocampo

Sara Milaj and Adriana Duhanaj

We have many special and significant staff members here at RHS, and one we would like to recognize as a teacher of Rochester is Mr. Zwolinski (a.k.a. Mr. Z), who is not only an inspiration to his APUSH students, but last summer, initiated and helped put together a brand new social studies elective class that brings more variety to learning about history.

This fresh new course, Gender and Ethnic Studies, is a class that Mr. Z is very passionate about and has worked hard to get into the curriculum. He strived to bring more inclusivity when it came to presenting different parts of history that not every student may be exposed to.

When asked how he came about bringing such a class to the school, he said, “I wouldn’t say I did it on my own. I presented it to the curriculum department about two years ago and then started working with a group of people.” It took a lot of effort and many people collaborating with him to get the class finalized.  

“We worked with Mrs. Golliday and pushed really hard to have a more inclusive and diverse class in history.” Mrs. Golliday is the Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Rochester Community Schools.

History is typically not thought of as a student’s favorite subject, but in Mr. Z’s eyes, students don’t know enough of it to truly enjoy and experience it as a part of their lives. “I think with history, it never stops happening and it’s important to take time to dive into some topics. “I didn’t think our history curriculum spent enough time on certain marginalized groups. I pushed really hard to get it and everybody seemed to think it was a great idea.”

Communication and feedback is vital when drawing students to something new, and making sure his students are satisfied with what they enrolled in is key. With this kind of class, Mr. Zwolinski said it was expected that the course would need a wider range of interesting details to get students engaged. We asked him how his new class was doing so far, and he was pleased with the responses from his students.

“I hope it’s making them think more than anything,” he said. “I’ve gotten some good feedback, but I’ve also been listening and seeing what to change. It’s hard the first time you teach any class, but for a class like this, we have to be so deliberate and make sure that we’re trying to address as many things as possible.”

We asked, if anything, what he would change about how he taught his new Gender and Ethnic Studies class.

Photo by Erielle Ocampo

“I think the biggest change that I’ve started to make is to bring in more voices,” he said. “I think that’s probably the most important thing. I need people from all different backgrounds to help teach the class.”

Mr. Z is well-known in the Rochester Schools community and has kept the same outgoing attitude and friendly energy he’s had ever since his own high school years. “When in high school, I was only allowed in student government for two days because I was on the announcements and they thought I was too over the top. I was too focused on making people laugh and making jokes.”

Mr. Z is unaware of how he has grown to be such a well-liked teacher. 

“That’s the most humbling statement ever,” he said. “I just try to always do what’s best for students. My number one goal is to make them as successful as possible, whether that be academically, socially, or emotionally. If you go into a task with a goal in mind, then good results come from it. The goal this time is to make the best students possible.”

Photo Courtesy of Sara Milaj