Power of words

Zack Kincheloe

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Chico High English teacher Zack Kincheloe is an avid reader of Shakespeare, was honored this year with the Teacher of the Year Award, and keeps SpongeBob SquarePants Band-Aids in his desk drawer just in case his students need them. Kincheloe teaches English for ninth, 10th and 12th grades and was given the award by the school district’s Educational Hall of Fame.

What interested you in teaching?

I had an inspiring teacher when I was in high school. It got me thinking about maybe doing something like that. I did lots of other things in between, but I’ve always enjoyed being in an English class. I think it’s always a shock for new teachers when they discover teaching English is not always deep discussions about great literature. English teachers also have to help develop students’ thought process as well as their writing. It’s different than I expected, but I enjoy it.

What kinds of other things did you do before becoming a teacher?

I worked for an underground construction company, so basically I dug ditches for a long time. I was also a foreman for a cannery. And I traveled Europe for a year.

How did you come to Chico?

Right out of high school I went to the Air Force Academy, though I wasn’t actually in the armed services. If you stay all four years, you become an officer, but I quit after two and went to UC Berkeley, where I majored in English. When I was in UC Berkeley, I had some friends who went to Chico State. They introduced me to the Chico community and I fell in love. I came to Chico State to get my teaching credential and I even did my student teaching here at Chico High.

How long have you been teaching?

I got my credential in 1976. I went to Stockton and taught at a high school for children of migrant farm workers. When a position opened up in Chico, I jumped on it and I’ve been here ever since.

How would to describe yourself as a teacher?

I like to think that I’m organized and demanding, but I also want to be understanding to the kids. I want the students to learn and love the subject, especially the literature, as much as I do.

What is your favorite piece of literature?

Macbeth is probably my favorite Shakespeare play, just because it works so well in the classroom. It has everything to keep students interested: its short length, the violence, the witches, the plot, etc. I love teaching Shakespeare, but one book I never get tired of is To Kill a Mockingbird. Kids really connect with the story and every year I look forward to teaching it.