In Memoriam
Posted on 03/10/2021
 
 

 

In Memoriam

 

 

Richard Zuckernick

Gar-Field Math Teacher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Zuckernick

 

 
Dear Gar-Field Family,

 

I am very saddened to share the news that Mr. Richard Zuckernick, Gar-Field math teacher, has passed away due to complications from COVID-19, which he had been battling for the past couple of months. To all who knew him or had Mr. Zuckernick as a teacher, this is a terrible loss. My sincere condolences go out to his family. Mr. Zuckernick loved teaching and was extremely dedicated to his students and to Gar-Field High School. Mr. Zuckernick is remembered by his colleagues for having a huge heart. He cared deeply for the success of his students and made learning math approachable for even the most reluctant of students. Although Mr. Zuckernick had been teaching virtually all year until his illness, he built strong bonds with his students due to his caring personality and commitment to Gar-Field.

Mr. Zuckernick had a degree in Engineering and loved the design process. He took pride in that as a teacher he was growing the next generation of engineers.  He served in the Navy, and most of his years as a Sailor were spent as an engineer aboard the U.S.S Enterprise, CVN-65. Mr. Zuckernick started his PWCS teaching career at Lake Ridge Middle School in 2011. He came to Gar-Field in 2017 and taught a variety of math courses to Gar-Field students including Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. He had great success with all learners from students who lacked confidence in math to advanced math students in the IB program. Outside of school, Mr. Zuckernick was an animal lover. He volunteered as a kitten companion to care for animals awaiting adoption. Mr. Zuckernick was also an avid Star Wars fan and sports enthusiast, especially baseball. He served as a Little League Baseball umpire.

My words alone cannot express the impact Mr. Zuckernick had at Gar-Field High School. He touched the lives of so many students and colleagues. Below are just a few examples of Mr. Zuckernick's lasting impact on our school community.

Lastly, I know Mr. Zuckernick's passing will impact so many in the Gar-Field Community. Please know there is support available for students and staff. If you need assistance, please feel free to contact the school’s Counseling Office at 703-730-7000. Our counselors can provide additional information on school and community resources. Furthermore, if any student needs emotional support during this stressful time, he/she can email studentsupportservices@pwcs.edu to receive virtual support.

Sincerely, 
Matthew Mathison
Principal

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Mr. Z was always patient and kind. He was so supportive, asking questions and listening, and always made sure we students felt both appreciated and confident about the class material. When I came to Gar-Field for my freshman year, I did not like math. I was nervous and did not very much believe in my abilities. But Mr. Z has brought me to comprehend and even love math, which I never imagined I would. He made his classroom a comfortable and safe environment, and for that I am grateful. - Kiara C. 

 

Mr. Zuckernick was truly the embodiment of what the ideal teacher should be.  He realized that knowing the material was second to knowing and caring for the students and his colleagues.  I have to share two memories of Zuck here since they combined truly show the man and friend he was to me.  The first is how he would pretend to be hiding behind his desk when I stopped into his room during his first period class, telling the kids that I was the mean boss trying to make him do more work.  Truth be told, I would deliberately go in there, just to see this big burly guy trying to hide like my 6 year old does because it made both of us laugh and was a great start to the day on those occasions. The second story is when Zuck set the microwave on fire in the department office heating up his lunch one day.  Turns out there is a difference between 2 minutes and 20 minutes when heating up food.  He was embarrassed by this and was feeling down, asking me after school that day why I hired him as a former engineer that couldn't even heat up his own lunch.  I had to tell him my secret for interviews.  While the questions are important, I picture the person answering in front of the classroom with my daughter in there and ask myself the simple question, "Is this what I would want Lena's teacher to be?"  In sitting with Zuck after the first few minutes during his interview, I knew the answer was yes.  So glad I was right and truly blessed to have met you Zuck.  May you rest in peace my friend.  -Dennis Mitchell

 

I remember for our first test this year, Mr. Z dressed up like Rocky Balboa, played the Rocky song for us and was air boxing on the screen.  He was so funny. -D'montae Williams

 

Mr. Z and I teamed together in Geometry for 3 years.  He was always so warm and caring with the students.  We joked that he was the nice one in our classes.  Mr. Z was willing to meet with students at any time (even evenings and weekends) to help them understand math, and really wanted them to be successful.  He loved Disney and sports and had many bits of memorabilia in the classroom that he was happy to show off to all.  I will miss our banter in and out of the classroom. I will think about him every time I think about Geometry. My thoughts are with everyone who is touched by his passing. -Cindy Ardecki 

 

I remember the day Mr. Mitchell and I interviewed Zuck.  After the interview,  Mr. Mitchell was going to take Zuck on a tour of the building.  As they left the office, Mitch slipped me a note that read “hire him” underlined twice.  We both new Zuck would be great fit for the department, school, and students.  Zuck was the kindest soul and a devoted teacher.  He would teach any math class, any student, any grade.  If I asked Zuck to work with students with learning disabilities, he would say “absolutely.”  If I asked Zuck to take on some students failing math, he would say “absolutely.”  He was completely devoted to his students and serving the GF community.  Zuck loved teaching.  His classroom was built on respect, focused on learning, and infused with kindness.  My heart goes out to his family and to the GF family who loved him too.  May his memory be a blessing to us all.  -Lisamarie Kane

 

Mr. Zuckernick was always a cheerful and friendly but person. He always loved to talk to his students about his day and show his cats. He always talked about Disney and how much he loved going there. I remember when he talked to us about taking his grandson to Disney World and how excited he was. He loved to support our interests and he inspires me to keep drawing. He asked me last year to draw him a custom Minnie Mouse character; I hope he loved it. I will always remember him as a cheerful, funny, kind, and friendly person. I’m happy to think that he is with his wife now and that he can rest peacefully. Rest in paradise Mr. Z 🕊❤️ -Brenda C.

 

When I was new to supervising the Gar-Field Math Department last year, I invited all of the teachers in the department to meet with them one-on-one so I can get to know a bit more about them before the school year began.  Mr. Z was one of the firsts to immediately respond to me, shared his passions openly and welcomed me with open arms.  I remember thinking what a kind, loving and gentle human being he was and knew immediately what an amazing teacher he would be to his students, in addition to what an amazing teammate he would be.  I always enjoyed watching him captivate the students as he taught them and how comfortable he made even the most struggling student feel when teaching them math.  He has been a blessing to everyone and anyone he has met and has left a huge positive impact on all of us.  One of his last wishes was to make sure we took care of his students, whom he loved so dearly.  I promised him we would and I know that he knows they will continue to be in great hands.  -Milly Polanco

 

My daughter, Sarah, was an 8th grader being bused to Gar-Field HS with other 8th graders for the first class of the day, Geometry. Sarah had a very rough time in middle school with bullying and we were hoping a short change of scenery each day would give her a break. Mr. Z was new to G-FHS and Sarah was apprehensive. However, Mr. Z became a rock for her. This was the same year he lost his wife. He and Sarah supported each other, had many good talks, and he came to her 8th grade bridging. He was a wonderful, bear of a man who truly cared about his students. - Karen and Sarah Peak

 

Zuck was such an inspiration. His calm demeanor and his ability to reach his students was outstanding. He was kind, caring, smart, and a good friend to all. Words really cannot express what an amazing person he was. He will be missed so deeply, and he will always be a part of us. -Shannon Miller

 

I remember one time my guinea pig ran across the screen and Mr. Z said, “was that a dog it's so cute I was like no its actually my guinea pig. Mr. Z said he was so adorable, and my guinea pigs name is Richard too. - Kylie Madison

 

I remember how he would always try and make his students smile, such as before would show up to work with a pink wig because of his students did well on the test. - Jamie Serrano

 

Zuck would have been an amazing counselor because of his ability to truly listen and care and make you feel special and supported, no matter what you brought his way.  Combine this with teaching a subject so many of our students historically feel insecure about and it's no wonder he had such success.  It's ironic that he was one of the first people I would go to when I was feeling down and needing to talk, and this is the one time I can't do that.  I hope he knew how much he meant to so many of us and how special he truly was.  I will miss him so much.  I already do. -Amy Dunlap

 

Mr. Zuckernick was always welcoming to students in his classes.  When I brought a student to one of his classes that was full, he gave up his chair at his desk until we could work out the numbers. -Jane Prince

At Gar-Field we have the expectation that our students and staff are champions each and every day. Zuck was a champion and so much more for everyone who had the privilege to meet him. He was a brilliant and selfless man. As my mentor, he taught me so much more than teaching. He taught me valuable life lessons that I continue to carry with me today. I pray for everyone during this difficult time and give his family my deepest condolences. -Neal Oakman

 

I never met Zuck in person as I am new at Gar-Field this year.  Yet he showed so much kindness towards me and was so welcoming and easy to talk to that I will never forget him.  He and I zoomed several times before school started and I felt at ease asking him all of my 'newbie' questions.  I remember his easy smile and how very concerned he was about all of his students' emotional wellness.  I was struck by his compassion and dedication to students and Gar-Field.  He was truly a 'Champion' for his students and math.  He is greatly missed, -Laura Cunningham

 

Mr.Z was the kindest teacher that i've met. He made sure to make everbody comfortable not only in the classroon, but in the school as well. He was the only math teacher who actually made geometry and algebra 2/trig easy and understandable. I hope he is now resting easy ,and that his name will forever be remebered at Gar-field -Teresa Gonzalez

 

Mr. Z was a caring teacher that helped us all in so many ways. He was by far one of my favorite teachers as well. He is gone but never forgotten. May he Rest In Peace. -Vanessa Insixiengmay

 

Zuck was truly the best that our department had to offer. He was the kindest, most genuine, and compassionate person that you would ever meet. He loved teaching and he cared so much about his students. He would take the time to get to know them as people before anything else. The kids all knew this and loved being in his class. He was always there when anybody needed to talk and was an amazing listener. I will miss seeing his smiling face in the 2100 hallway. I will miss our conversations before and after school. He was a great person who will live in our memories. -Post

 

Zuck was such an amazing person. He was kind, compassionate, and passionate about the students. He was my fellow Disney nut and we would often talk about our planned trips. We had even talked about a combined trip for "after Covid". He loved sports and supporting our DC teams. He would always talk excitedly about his plans to go into DC for game nights and come bouncing in the next morning.  He had so much life and light and he will be missed dearly. -Jeanette Newman

 

Zuck!!!!!! I selfishly mourn your absence, but I know that you are so happy to be with your wife again!!! Your love for her was so strong and was an example to many on what love and commitment are all about. You were OUR gentle giant. You NEVER gave up on kids and I just want to thank you for all of your positive vibes, willingness to take on new challenges, your can-do spirit, and while I selfishly miss your presence, I know your heart is full of joy being with the woman who filled your life with so much love and joy. Rest well Zuck and God Bless your family, students, and colleagues who were so fortunate to share in your life and love. -Brian Bassett

 

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Zuckernick as I took over for one of his classes when he was on medical leave. But his class and Ms. Ardecki welcomed me with open arms, and you could really tell that Mr. Zuck had already instilled in his students the art of compassion. He wasn't one of those teachers who just teaches the content. My impression is that he was teaching students how to be kind individuals and was truly concerned about their well-being. We need more teachers like him, now more than ever. I know his students will never forget him and Gar-Field will keep his legacy alive. My heart goes out to all those at Gar-Field. -Mrs. Mulligan

 

Kind, caring, compassionate, humble...those are just a few words I would use to describe Zuck.

We started teaching at Gar-Field at the same time. Over time, we became good friends. I knew I could go to him when I needed someone to vent to, someone to listen, or someone to just give me some comforting words. He listened so intently and I knew he truly cared. I knew I could trust him...and he never judged.  If I needed help, he was always there to lend a helping hand...and never wanted recognition.  The impact he has made in and out of the classroom will never be forgotten. Zuck was a remarkable teacher and friend...an amazing soul who will forever be missed. -Robyn Thurston

 

My favorite memory of Mr. Zuckernick was when he would pause the class to talk about his passion for the Star Wars series and various Disney films and shows. May him and his wife rest in peace. -Nizar Bousselmi

 

He was absolutely the best teacher I have ever had. He was the kindest, most caring person who cared for his students above all. -Brooke Steptoe

 

He was a compassionate individual who cared deeply about his students well being even if it had nothing to do with school. -Muhammed Umar

  

There are many things that could be said about Mr. Z, but in the end it all came down to a quiet, caring man who was there for everyone. He had many challenges in life, but he brought life to our school, our students, and our staff. We had many conversations about life, but his compassion was overflowing and it was clear he was a kind and generous man who impacted so many. I send love and peace to his family, to the Gar-Field Family he served so well, and to all who loved him. He was magical and I will forever miss our talks. Be at peace Mr. Z. -Chris Rall

 

Mr. Z was one of the most invested and caring teachers I knew of at Gar-Field. And while that can be said of so many teachers at GF, Mr. Z took it to a deeper level. So many times, I saw him at GFHS sporting games, there cheering on his students. He stayed late so that his students knew "I CARE ABOUT YOU!" He also had a deep appreciation of ice hockey and many times in our sport cheering would mention how one day he wanted to go with some of the GF family to a Capitols game. He was a genuine, kind, compassionate and patient man who invested his care into everyone around him, students and teachers both. Mr. Z, we will miss you terribly, but we will ALWAYS be thankful for the way you loved and cared for everyone around you. And don't worry, one day, we WILL make it to that Caps game just for you. ~ Miss Hicks

 

He did his job really well. His cats will miss him so very much -Ailani Diaz

 

Mr. Z had been my teacher for 2 years (freshman & junior) and he never failed to be my absolute favorite. He was always very compassionate and genuine. He made sure that we never had too much on our plate especially now virtually. He would make the cheesiest jokes now and then and shared his love with disney with others. Miss his classroom, his smile, and of course his cats. My deepest condolences to his family... as a student to him, i can truly tell you he was one of the best! Rest in peace Mr. Z, your legacy will live in our hearts forever <3 -Kimberly Henriquez

 

Mr. Zuckernick was a gentle giant. His passion for teaching and learning were evident to anyone who came into contact with him and rubbed off on every student he encountered. My favorite Zuckernick story was the day we had a softball game at Lake Ridge and the umpires did not show. Mr. Z went to the AD and asked if he wanted him to go get his gear from his car. Yes, he kept his umpire gear in his trunk and we later found out, he had umpired the Little League World Series. Mr. Zuckernick did not do this because he wanted to umpire or wanted us to know that not only was he an umpire, but he was one of the best in the country! He did it because he wanted our girls and the other team to have an opportunity to play. He was a selfless man and he would do anything for his students. We mourn his loss but take comfort in knowing that he is with his amazing wife again. I know they will smile down on the Lake Ridge and Garfield communities. We will miss you Rich. Once a Wolf...Always a Wolf -James Dutrow

 

I taught math next door to Rich at Lake Ridge Middle School for several years. He was always ready with a helping hand, advice, materials - anything I needed. When I wanted to sit for the Algebra Praxis, he helped me study and prepare. When I was trying to decide if I should make the move from middle school to high school, he met with me for several hours to catch up on life and talk about the pros and cons of making that shift (he had been at Gar-Field for 3 years at that time). I always appreciated how thoughtful he was in approaching any task or situation. He was just a good guy, and his passing is a huge loss to the county. -Kristine Bryant

 

Zuck was a very special person. He had a big heart and always put everyone before himself! He and I would converse between classes. His big smile would put me in a great mood. I loved our "parking lot meetings" where we'd run into each other and talk about our days or Disney! Zuck will be missed greatly! - Krystin Cetar

 

Mr. Zuckernick was one of the sweetest human beings that I have had the pleasure to work with. He always had a smile on his face and a cool story to tell about his many life adventures. :-) He genuinely cared about all of the people around him and wanted to see them flourish. I loved walking to his classroom and being greeted with a sincere how are you? Not once did he roll his eyes or look annoyed about me interrupting his class. He was an amazing person and he will be missed. - Kara Proctor

 

Mr. Zuckernick was always so friendly and kind. Whenever I needed paperwork filled out right away for my SPED students, he was always quick to get it back to me. I remember loving to see the picture of him all dressed up as some type of actor. I will always remember him with that costume looking like Shakespeare. He had the biggest kindest eyes and his kindness was noted by the way he greeted you in the hallways around Gar-Field. He will be missed by staff and students. Rest in Heaven Now Mr. Z. -Anita Ervin

 

I taught at lake Ridge Middle with Mr. Z....he was a gentle giant in my eyes.... always kind and always easy to be around... his kids loved him! -Michael Heisey

 

He was an amazing person with a positive mindset always , he will be missed but is resting in peace. - Sidney Arias Sanchez

 

I met Mr. Zuckernick when he joined Lake Ridge as a career switcher. He attended several professional learnings and just took in everything he could and added so much as well. He was so positive and such a thinker. He obviously knew the math but he wanted to be an exceptional teacher and he was. We shared Lockheed Martin experiences and our hope of building the love of mathematics in students. After his second or third year at Lake Ridge and working so diligently, he sent me a bouquet of lollipops to thank me for the resources and the opportunities for him to learn. Who does that? Mr. Zuckernick. After he transferred to Gar-Field, he attended a professional learning on quadratics with a colleague. We brought out the motion detectors and balls. They had so much fun exploring and extending what we gave them. We actually had to go find them to bring them back. His enthusiasm was contagious for the class. I know he was a teacher who loved his students and loved teaching. He was giving, kind, and assumed the best intentions. I am so sorry for your loss. I feel blessed to have met and worked with Mr. Zuckernick just the few times I did. I can only imagine the impact on those he worked with and taught daily. -Amy Hickey

 

In loving memory of Mr. Z; thank you for growing my love for math <3. -Tiffany Monyongo

 

I remember the entire class got a really good class average on this one test, so Mr. Zuckernick gave us a reward and he wore a really fun pink wig and let the class take pictures, he gave us poses and such, It was a very fun and memorable day in that class. He really was the best math teacher I've ever had, he made the class enjoyable and interactive. He will most definitely be missed by his students, including me.-Anujin Ganzorig

 

Mr. Z was honestly one of the most kind and pure souls I have ever met. He was always supportive of us and there to help. I used to be completely confused in class and he would explain the whole lesson to me again until I understood. He would always support his students, he used to always support my teams through buying from fundraisers or even attending games. He will truly be missed, his kind and warm heart and soul will never be forgotten. -Umaiza Kashif

 

I hadn't known Mr. Zuckernick long, but from the time I knew and interacted with him, he was always willing to help students in need. -Willette Trevis

 

Thank you for always being so understanding and always taking your time out to help us and other teachers, you will be very missed. -love from a champion <3 -Fiza Haider

 

Reading all the wonderful tributes to Rich from his colleagues and student from Gar-Field makes me smile. I had the pleasure to work with Rich at Lake Ridge Middle School. He was an outstanding math teacher and shared his wealth of knowledge with fellow teachers and students. I loved chatting with him on the way into the building as he and I always seemed to arrive at the same time. An all around outstanding person. -Catherine Marinacci

 

He was a man of character and kindness; a man of faith. I enjoyed visiting with him when I would get in early in the mornings. He would send positive thoughts to his students, as he readied himself and his classroom for everyone. -Jenna Conner-Harris

 

Thank you Mr. Zuckernick for the amazing 3 years of my high school experience. From freshmen to junior you were always my last block. I am grateful I ended my day in your class. I will never forget your stories you told after class, you always said, "I have a storytime..." Whether if it was in person or virtual, you were always willing to share your background. During virtual learning, after class, I will always remember a student ask if they could see your notes, it was taking forever to download the file. Some 5 minutes later, the file had finished downloading. Once you opened the file, you realized it was the wrong one! You said, "And after all that time it was the wrong one." I couldn't stop myself from laughing. I unmuted myself to express my laughter. While explaining to the other student the notes, you said my laughter was contagious, and you were able to still hear my laugh even though I was muted. You kept on giving little giggles while trying to explain the student the notes, but you admitted your mistake was too funny not to ignore and kept apologizing for your laughter. I have to admit we both ended that day with a good laugh. You were the sweetest, kindest, and funniest teacher I've ever encountered; you had the heart of a child with your obsession for Disney and Star Wars. Once again thank you, Mr. Z, I'm so glad I had the opportunity to have you as my math teacher. -Jessica Escobar

 

Mr. Z has always been my favorite teacher since freshman year. He always had fun stories and made math so much easier for me. He would never fail on making my day so much better for the past 3 years. He was a kind, caring, humble, compassionate, supportive, cheerful, and friendly person. He will always be someone I remember for the rest of my life. I will miss you so much Mr. Z and thank you for not only teaching me but supporting me for these past 3 Years. To his family, my condolences and may God bless and comfort you each day . May you rest in peace Mr. Z I love you and you will always have a special place in my heart<3. - Clarisa Amaya-Funes

 

I'm sorry that I didn't get the chance to meet Mr.Z, but I have no doubt that he was a wonderful person who enjoyed life to the fullest. May he rest in paradise. -Meeha Bhuiyan

 

Mr. Z was the kind of teacher that made the learning environment effortless and comfortable. He was the most understanding teacher I've ever met. I'm devastated but I find comfort in knowing he's with his wife again. ~Maya Laws

 

Mr. Z was like a best friend to me. When i was having a bad day he would always find a way to cheer me up. He was a very happy person and very funny. He will be missed by so many. Love you Mr. Z<3 -Jennifer Sorto