This profile of Middle School math teacher Donna Zarzecki is the final in our summer-long series on 12 long-serving and much-beloved faculty and staff members who retired in June. For faculty and staff remembrances of all of this year's group of retirees, don't miss this tribute video, with prefatory remarks for each by Head of School Paul Stellato.
Here is Donna's profile as it appeared in the Journal magazine, as told by Tom Quigley, Upper School English teacher and peer group faculty; and Jill Thomas, health and PE teacher and peer group faculty:
Generations of wandering Middle School math students found their way into her poster-filled classroom assuming perhaps that they would just be balancing equations and solving for x — only to realize her real lessons involved empathy and fairness and doing the right thing when no one was looking. And for those eighth graders who surmised they might be able to slide by somehow, Donna Zarzecki, dean of the 8th grade for fourteen years, turned out to be an unrelenting sheriff with bullet-blue eyes and a couch that felt sometimes like jail.
Donna has also left her mark on the iconic Peer Leadership Program in the Upper School developing student leaders, and, more importantly, helping young adolescents blossom into better people. The lessons she has shared really represent the core values of the person Donna is: family, trust, fairness, loyalty, and spirituality. Donna will be the first to say that while the Peer Leadership Program at PDS is for the freshmen, it's the seniors who take away the most from their experiences in the year-long journey. For twenty- five years, the connections these seniors have made with her moved beyond the classroom, from Camp Wayne to Fairview Lake. Through gingerbread houses, sweatshirts, skits, ropes course evenings, and skating parties, Donna's photographic focus has captured the magic and essence of Peer Group as well as her impact on the program—one of her favorite parts of Princeton Day School.
For close to three decades, this educator, mentor, advocate, and dear friend has embodied the saying, "You will get out of this exactly what you put into it." On behalf of all the students, parents, colleagues, staff, and administrators Donna has worked with and connected to during her munificent career, we feel honored to thank her and wish her immense joy and luck as she moves on from PDS and continues to give all to her three children (Matt '96, Michael '97, and Kari '98, her two grandchildren, her friends, and her communities.