Maybe you know her for her grand Mole Day celebrations, or maybe her wacky chemistry songs still hum on in your mind.
Maybe you remember her contagious enthusiasm for science, or maybe you just recall her genuine care for every student.
Indisputably, Mrs. Zambrano stands as a cherished member of the Academy family. She is an outstanding science teacher, teaching both chemistry and anatomy classes this year. She devotedly leads the Dominican Republic Mission trip. She runs the Academy’s Interact Club.
Most importantly, she inspires all who have had the privilege to meet her. This year, Mrs. Z was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been fighting it with strength, faith, and optimism. Yet she still took the time for an interview to share her love of Academy values and students, and of course…Mole Day.
Q: What inspired you to become a science teacher?
A: I originally was a political science major when I started college, but I was interested in finding out how the human body worked. In my first year , I decided to take an anatomy class since I had never taken anatomy in high school. I fell in love with it. I loved the whole idea of understanding the human body, and I wanted to know more, so that’s what got me into science. Then I wanted to teach. I enjoyed it very much. I didn’t want to be sitting in a lab; that was the other option.
Q: What originally made you decide to teach at the Academy of the Holy Names?
A: It was a Godsend, I think. We had been living abroad for four years in Venezuela. There was a joint venture with my husband’s company, and my husband had been assigned there. My husband’s dream had always been to send our children to the Academy, but when we came back, we weren’t sure if we would be able to do it. I hadn’t been working for the last nine years. We came to investigate, and while I was sitting there, the interviewer told me that a chemistry position was available. That’s how it went. I became a teacher here. My son graduated from eighth grade at the Academy, and my daughter graduated from twelfth. This is now my seventeenth year teaching at the Academy.
Q: What is your favorite part about being an Academy teacher?
A: My favorite part of being an Academy teacher is that I can actually teach in the full sense of the word. It’s not just teaching the subject. It’s about teaching the students how to live a better life and to be able to contribute to society as much as I can.
Q: Mole Day 2010 just recently passed. How do you feel the outcome for this year’s Mole Day was?
A: It was outstanding. The students were very enthusiastic, and the former students were even more enthusiastic! That made it very special. Also, it was our fifteenth anniversary of celebrating Mole Day at Academy, so that made it extra special.
Q: Mission trips are approaching soon. How will the Dominican missionaries prepare for this year’s mission trip?
A: Right now we are in the process of selecting the team. We already have selected the leaders. There is a lot going into the trip, and the leaders obviously take the initiative since they have already been on the trip before. They understand what needs to happen. One of the major things we do is the collection of shoes. Also, we have to prepare spiritually because it’s a very difficult situation for many of the Dominicans. It is a shock to see, especially when you go for the first time, and it is very difficult to absorb it all and to understand how they have to manage with the little that they have. It humbles you, and that is why I keep going back. I believe we gain so much more than we are able to give.
Q: What are your overall goals for the 2011 Dominican Mission Trip?
A: My goal is twofold because I believe it is a mission within a mission. My goal is, of course, to serve the people of La Victoria and to help the sisters serve the Dominican people as best we can. The other goal that I always have, however, is to inspire the girls to become lifelong missionaries. I don’t only mean this in the sense of having to travel or go somewhere. You can be a missionary, pass the mission, and serve others anywhere you are. This could mean going to a third-world country. I know some girls have gone to Africa after high school because they felt so inspired. It also could mean serving others just around the corner.
Q: As Interact moderator, you run the Academy blood drives. Approximately when will this year’s blood drive occur, and how can girls get involved?
A: The blood drive is going up right around the corner on Monday, November 15. I had a Florida Blood Services representative come talk to my Anatomy classes, and I think that really inspired the girls and helped them to understand how important blood donations are. The Interact Club is getting everything ready. We like to feed our donors and pamper them as much as we can. This way, once they go out on their own, they will hopefully have a good memory and will continue to do that service to the community. Of course, I cannot donate. Even before, I couldn’t donate because of the mission trip. Those who have gone to the Dominican Republic are not allowed to donate blood for a year. The best thing I can do is get others to donate. Hopefully there will be a great turnout this year!
Q: You always seem to have such an optimistic attitude about life. How do you manage to always remain so positive despite everything you are going through?
A: I try to live the moment. Every morning, when I first open my eyes, I think of all the blessings that I have. Of course, that has to make me happy, to think of all the wonderful things that I have in my life. I feel blessed, so I’m happy about that. Why shouldn’t I be?
Q: Many students admire your strong faith. How has your battle with cancer influenced your relationship with God?
A: It has influenced my faith in a positive way. I know other people, when faced with a situation like mine, might think, “Why me?” Well, my attitude has always been, “Why not me?” I’m just one more person in this world, and so many women have had breast cancer. I see it as something that just happened. I do not blame God for it at all. God has, however, given me great strength to deal with it, and I am grateful for that. Every day I just thank God because I can deal with this, and it makes me feel happy and strong. My husband has been a great support for me. He is very positive. We live the day and the moment as much as we can. I could go through this and be totally devastated and devastated, or I could go through this and be optimistic about life; I choose the latter.
Q: Do you have a favorite prayer that you like to say?
A: There are many prayers that I like. There are some prayers that I say often that are based on the mottoes of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. The Schoenstatts have influenced me quite a bit in prayer, especially in praying to Mary, which before I did not often do. Also, I always say, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me”. That is my mantra. I can get through anything because of Jesus.
Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the hats? Every day you wear a new hat, and each one has a special meaning behind it. What made you come up with this idea of choosing a special hat for every day?
A: Well, I thought that if you’ve got lemons, you got to make lemonade! I thought it was a different twist. I wanted to have fun with the hats rather than have people look at me and be sad. I would rather have people ask me what my different hats are for or what each one reminds me of. It’s something to have fun with.
Q: Could you give us some examples of a couple of your favorite hats and the special meanings that they hold to you?
A: Well, my favorite hats have to be the ones that I wear for my son and my daughter. One is the army one, for my son, with West Point on the back. The other one is My Coast Guard hat which my daughter got for being on the ship. Those are both very special to me. There’s another one I like to wear, and I was going to wear it on All Souls Day. It was my dad’s hat. It’s a winter hat, however, so it was too hot to wear. I will wear it in the future, though, and I know that will be a very special one for me.
Q: If you could give the student body one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Live in the now and enjoy every moment to its fullest.
The Academy community truly appreciates Mrs. Z’s countless contributions to our school and her power to inspire. So, Academy girls, as Mrs. Z advises, live life to the fullest and treasure each and every day!