A Dive into the World of David Zollinger

It takes a wizard to juggle the duties of teacher, husband, and father. In this month’s teacher profile, Mr. Zollinger delivers some insight on what it takes to successfully handle each job.


Photo courtesy of Isaias Escobar

Mr. Zollinger is in his element inside Room 1203.

Isaias Escobar, Staff Writer

STOCKTON: “I feel like I’ve been teaching, in one way or another, all my life,” said David Zollinger. Teaching a high school senior English class is not an easy feat. In a post-pandemic academic life, the majority of seniors have the attention span of a gnat, and diving head-first into serious novel reading is not at the top of every 18 year-old’s to do list. However, with a witty and charismatic intelligence, Mr. Zollinger marches forward each day by teaching his World and British literature class along with his senior AP Literature courses to entertained audiences. In addition to his heavy academic load, Mr. Zollinger is a husband and a father. So how does Mr. Zollinger balance these two completely different, yet demanding jobs?

“There’s a magic in sharing a secret knowledge, a secret set of symbols and incantations used almost universally by authors to explore the biggest questions about the human condition and the experience of living in society. It makes me feel like a wizard (a cool wizard, like Merlin or Gandalf),” declared a triumphant Mr. Zollinger when asked why teaching was his passion.

The Zollinger story begins in Modesto, California where he grew up. He, as he put it, maximized the cost-saving opportunities of the California collegiate system by spending one year at Modesto Junior College before moving over to Cuesta Community College. He chose to go to Cuesta Community College to get out of the valley and to follow as he said, “an incredibly intelligent and attractive young biology major working towards her degree at California Polytechnic University.” The person being referred to here would later on become Mrs. Zollinger. “I went to this prestigious engineering and agricultural powerhouse to study philosophy, of course,” Zollinger explains. His undergrad coursework particularly focused on the history of philosophy and social ethics.

Zollinger said that after college he, “grappled with the typical ennui most young intellectuals grapple with in their early twenties.” He considered becoming a lawyer and took up substitute teaching as a day job. Immediately, he fell in love with teaching and he decided to pursue a full-time teaching credential. His first teaching job was in 2015 at Walter Wood Elementary School. The following year he moved over to Lincoln High School. As Zollinger explains, “I chose Lincoln High for a very simple reason. There was an incredibly intelligent and attractive rock star of a biology teacher that worked there (Mrs. Zollinger), and I had also heard nothing but good things about the school before making the jump to high school curriculum.”

Many teachers have different reasons that keep them motivated. For Zollinger, what drives him is being able to help students unlock the deeper truths inside the text. He wants students to be able to see the beauty in a novel’s prose and the brilliance in its themes. Not only that, but he hopes to inspire students to continue reading outside of school. He hopes that students can once again, or maybe for the first time, fall in love with literature. As Zollinger puts it, “I am indoctrinating another member into the Cult of Reading for Fun.”

Teachers will often face many difficulties during their careers. One of the biggest difficulties teachers have recently faced is teaching during a pandemic. While many teachers seemed to be discouraged or found it difficult to teach during the pandemic, Zollinger simply took advice from one of his favorite authors, Albert Camus. He embraced the absurd. He accepted the experience for what it was and simply tried his best to make his digital classroom a safe space for learning just like he would in a physical classroom. Outside of school the pandemic, of course, brought new challenges. Zollinger became a father. He said that this was, “both a beautiful and deeply surreal experience.” Now, Zollinger has to balance between being a teacher and having a family. Both are very demanding jobs. When asked how he does this, he explained, “Routine is essential to getting anything done without feeling like you’re drowning in a million silly little tasks that all feel like they take the highest priority in your life. I prioritize time with my daughter above everything else because she’s the most hilarious person that I know. Second to that, my wife and I promised each other to schedule at least one night a week to find a babysitter and get out of the house for a date night. It’s something I always look forward to in the stress of lesson planning and grading.”

For physical activity, Zollinger also enjoys going on jogs a few times a week. According to him, it is an activity to clear his head and improve his mental health rather than a way to exercise. He also enjoys playing his PS4 from time to time. He especially enjoys ripping and tearing demons in Doom, as well as, playing Call of Duty which he claims he is terrible at because his reflexes aren’t what they used to be. Another activity that he enjoys is making overpriced coffees using overly precise alchemic processes. The goal Zollinger states is, “to turn a cup of dirty, hot water into a transcendent culinary experience.” Lastly, Zollinger enjoys playing board games with his wife. He jokes that he has a nasty online board game shopping habit and that new board games arrive at their doorstep constantly.

When asked what he sees himself doing in 10 years, Zollinger explained, “Hopefully, I am happy and healthy, and watching an 11 year-old run around. I’m not one for planning that far in the future to be honest. I try to find joy in the moment as much as possible. I’d love to be back in school someday working on my PhD at whatever university would have me.” Any future Trojan senior will definitely be lucky to have Mr. Zollinger as their World/British or AP literature teacher. He is someone who is passionate about what he teaches and he tries to help students get excited about literature. He creates a classroom environment that brings students together and that makes students feel confident to try new things.