Students Revolt After Mark Zmuda, Former Cardinal Gibbons Teacher, Is Forced to Resign from Catholic School for Being Gay
If you were late to Mr. Zmuda's class, you'd have to do one pushup for every second after the bell rang. Sometimes he'd get on the ground and do them with you.
The back wall of his classroom was covered with pictures of his students. You had to bring in a picture of yourself during the first week of class or else you lost points. The whole process seemed dumb and burdensome until you saw the finished product and for a second felt like part of something.
Mr. Zmuda went to Virginia Tech, and after the shooting there happened, he held fundraisers and got the whole school to sign a big VT banner he sent over to their campus.
We used to have assemblies where students would dress up as teachers and make fun of them. The teachers would do the same to students. I can't remember one of these assemblies where Mr. Zmuda wasn't the ringleader.
He was a coach on the swim team, and you saw his face at just about every game, no matter the sport.
He was my geometry teacher. I'm not going to pretend like he was one of those teachers who changed my life. I was a quiet kid in high school, and due to my own apathy, I never really had one of those teachers. But I will say with absolute certainty that he was a really good teacher.
I hate math. I can't tell time, because when I finally count the minutes, the big hand has moved. The whole process is like trying to fill up a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Whenever I have to calculate a tip, I panic and leave way too much just to be safe. But I passed Mr. Zmuda's class. I didn't just pass; I got A's on most of the tests. I wasn't cheating or taking the kinds of drugs that make math fun either. Mr. Zmuda was just good at what he did.
The point I'm trying to make here is that Mr. Zmuda cared. A lot.
And if you're reading this, that means you've had at least some schooling, and you know how often just the opposite can happen. Everyone has had the alcoholic history teacher who just plays episodes of The Magic School Bus every day, despite the fact that the goddamned bus never went anywhere near the American Revolution.
There's a reason I can't scroll an inch down my Facebook newsfeed without seeing a status from a former classmate crying out in defense of Mr. Zmuda. It's because he made an impact.
If Mr. Zmuda were a lawyer, there would be a lot of criminals walking free. If he were a zookeeper, there would be a troop of gorillas out there, happy and fat.
But he wasn't any of those things. He was a teacher. And that's why, at this very moment, there are hundreds of genuinely distraught students sitting in a cafeteria, feeling helpless and sad because one of their favorite teachers has been taken from them.
Did Mark Zmuda know the risks that marrying a man would pose to his career? Probably. Is the school legally within its rights to terminate his position as vice principal? Most likely.
But I'm still trying to figure out who's benefiting from this decision. And, for the life of me, I just can't.