Valerie Zeko: lighting the passion for reading and learning

Valerie Zeko: lighting the passion for reading and learning

Sinjin Serrano

With the start of another school year comes new additions to the Foothill staff. Among them is Valerie Zeko, who is now teaching English 10 and 11. However, Foothill is far from unfamiliar ground for her.

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Valerie Zeko will be teaching English 10 and 11 at Foothill. Credit: Jessie Snyder/The Foothill Dragon Press

With the start of another school year comes new additions to the Foothill staff. Among them is Valerie Zeko, who is now teaching English 10 and 11.

However, Foothill is far from unfamiliar ground for her. Not only did she substitute at Foothill last year, but her children have also created a strong connection between the school and Zeko.

“This is where my daughter Anneke graduated in 2014 and now Emma will be here for the next [three] years, and after that my son Ben will be here for four years, so I have a strong connection to this school because of my kids,” she said.

Not only did the connection through her children give her a reason to apply to Foothill, but after substituting at Foothill last year, she gained some insight on the campus.

“After having subbed here last year, I realized [that] it’s the best school. The best high school in the district, and I love the block schedule,” Zeko said.

Although most people discover what they want their careers to be at different times of their lives, Zeko has always wanted to be a teacher ever since childhood.

“I used to play school all the time and […] my mom was a teacher. […] She would give me a blank gradebook and I would make up names for the class, and I would teach a fake class. I always planned on being a teacher,” she said.

Zeko said that she looked up to her mother and her own teachers growing up.

After graduating high school, Zeko attended Cal State Fullerton for her undergraduate degree, and attended University of California, Santa Barbara for her master’s in education.

Before Zeko began teaching, she worked at the “The Lighthouse,” part of the Mental Health Association of Orange County.

Afterwards, she taught at Camarillo High School from 1994 to 1996 and Channel Islands High School from 1996 to 1999. There, she taught several English and history classes, as well as Speech and Debate.

Zeko hopes to “pass on the passion of learning to her students,” firmly believing that “learning is the most important thing in life.”

 

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To Zeko, students are her favorite aspect of teaching, stating that she “loves teaching high school kids.” In addition, the students’ hilarity and uniqueness also adds to her enjoyment of teaching teenagers.

Zeko’s students are just as impressed of their teacher as she is with the students. Sophomore Rodrigo Gonzales said that her balance of kindness and strictness evens out, making her a good teacher.

Sophomore Bradley Brunsky also shared his opinion on Zeko, saying that her kindness makes her a better teacher. Many students, including sophomore Samantha McCree agree. Both Brunsky and McCree hope to improve their writing ability in Zeko’s class.

Reading and learning are very important to Zeko, and she hopes to “inspire a love and passion for reading and writing and learning.” Zeko herself enjoys reading during her spare time, especially historical fiction.

“I just love entering into another world, and experiencing what another person has experienced. I love being taken into another time and place,” she said.

What do you think?