Professor of Biology and Pearson author Ken Miller joins us during Teacher Appreciation Week as #WeThankTeachers
His classroom was a mess. There were potted plants, glass cages with spiders and frogs, and even a small, messy greenhouse protruding over the high school courtyard. By that time I knew I wanted to be a scientist, but it was Paul Zong, my 9th grade Bio teacher, who made me a Biologist. Life, untidy and unkempt, was everywhere in Mr. Zong’s classroom. He loved to give us “practicum” exams where 25 different specimens were placed on the room’s 25 desks. We had 90 seconds at each desk to examine the specimen and write down the answer to a question taped on the desk. Then a bell rang and we had to move to the next desk. He was serious about life. He loved it.
I’ve mentioned Mr. Zong in nearly all of my textbooks – one example from a recent book is shown above – and I dedicated my most recent popular book (“The Human Instinct”) to him. He kindled my lifelong fascination with microscopy, and was the very first teacher to give me a sense of the ever-changing nature of science. DNA, for example, was not even mentioned in our textbook. But Mr. Zong made sure we knew all about it – and let us know that it would change our lives. He was right about that, of course. But he was also the person who changed my life then and there. Thanks, Mr. Zong!