Teacher Spotlight: Zita Gray, Upper School Science

Zita Gray, Upper School physics and chemistry teacher, is dedicated to science education. But she’s quick to point out that school isn’t just about the subject you teach – it’s about the community you create.

What do you love about teaching?
I love teaching physics and chemistry and science in general because I think it's really exciting and it's very rewarding. There is never a dull moment in science, for sure. It's more than just writing formulas or problem-solving. It's really helping our students see the world in a new kind of way. And teaching science gives us a lot of opportunities to foster creativity and critical thinking, as well as character development.

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age group in particular?
I love teaching upper school students because of the feeling of appreciation and gratitude from students. Physics and chemistry can be very challenging and students really appreciate the support. And I also get to help them figure out their strengths despite all the challenges of the subjects.

I also enjoy seeing students go through and experience some important milestones in their lives, like getting their driver's license or going to the prom or getting their first job or internship. I'm a senior advisor this year, so it's really great to hear them share their acceptance letters from colleges and universities. It's a very exciting and, at the same time, nerve-wracking time of their lives. So I get to see that.

Every day I also get to have conversations with students, from sharing their favorite restaurants or music or fashion or movies. And it's really great to hear their opinions and hear what they think.

Do you get any fashion or music feedback?
Yes. They usually show me the website and say, “Ms. Gray, you should buy this or you should check this out.” It's really fun.

They’re adults in a way, but then they also can be silly and childlike. With the seniors, I've been with them for three years. So I've seen the progression from when they were freshmen or sophomores.

What do you think sets Flint Hill apart from other schools?
This is my sixth year here at Flint Hill. But this is actually my 20th or 21st year of teaching. And I think what sets Flint Hill apart from other schools, either independent schools or public schools, is we have a very caring community. Everyone just looks after each other and the whole idea of Flint Hill giving, providing the environment wherein students and faculty and staff can take meaningful risks and be ourselves, as well as challenge ourselves and grow.

Also, we have this whole concept of being Huskies and as Huskies, we pull the sled together no matter what. This is a very special place for me and my family [her fourth-grade daughter attends Flint Hill], for sure.

What do you have going on right now?
I think for me personally, especially this year, I just love having our advisory program. It's having your own little family that you start your day with. I think for the students, that's also very special. In our advisory program, you get to stay with your advisory for three years and develop a very strong connection. We do community service together. We celebrate each other's birthdays. And for the winter holidays, we exchange gifts. You know, those kinds of things. It's really kind of like your family. Usually, you come home to your family, but now you're in school and you have a family here, too.

I'm from the Philippines and involved with the Asian Student Union; I'm one of the advisors promoting the Asian community and Asian culture, so I'm bringing that to my advisory.

In Filipino culture, there is a traditional dance called tinikling, which my advisory is going to perform for the Open Mic next week. At first, the students hesitated, and I said, you know, I'd like to share my culture with you. All 13 students in my advisory are participating, using bamboo sticks to dance.

 

What are some fun things that you teach every year?
In physics, in our fourth quarter, we'll let the students apply the concepts they've learned. We do this project called the Rube Goldberg machine, where they incorporate motion and energy and make it into a machine that does a very simple task. But then it's a series of complicated steps, so students always look forward to that, and it’s very exciting.