Behind the Mask of Teachers: Mr. Paul Zens


For our final edition of The Scroll, we chose to interview the one and only Paul Zens. Zens has been a Western Civ and AP European History teacher here at North for 4 years. When we seniors started here at North, so did he. Zens was immediately well-liked, as most of us all remember him as the favorite sub from middle school. Zens always makes class fun for his students with his entertaining lectures and love for his meter stick, but do any students really know Zens? Find out now as we go Behind the Mask with Mr. Paul Zens.
Zens grew up in Lowry, Minnesota, which is a small town outside of Alexandria. There, he grew up coincidentally playing the sports he currently coaches at Fargo North, which are basketball, football, and track. He stuck with basketball and football all throughout high school, but stopped running track when he was a sophomore.
“Running for fun was not my thing. It’s a lot better to tell people to run, rather than actually do the running,” Zens said laughing.
His favorite memory growing up was when his family got their little Boston Terrier, Boutros, who went by Booty for short.
“I think I was. . . whatever year Lion King came out, because I remember we went to that movie after we got him,” Zens said.
The unique name of Boutros was given to the dog by his parents, and he has no idea how or why his parents decided on this name. Zens thinks it might be the name of some European political figure.
After graduating from high school, Zens went to Fergus Falls Community College to complete his generals, as he had no idea what he wanted to do for a career. Then he went to NDSU, where he started out as simply a history major.
“I had a teacher at Fergus Falls that I really liked, who was a history teacher, and so I liked history after that. . .My first two years at NDSU I did nothing but history classes.”
While taking classes, he was thinking about becoming a museum curator. So he took some classes where he would go to the NDSCS location, near CVS on 19th Ave. For these classes, he would go through old documents and file them.
“It was the most boring thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Zens said.
When he realized 1) you can’t do much with just a history major, and 2) he’d be working in quiet places mostly by himself with minimal speaking, he knew he had to make some adjustments with his plan, so he added an education major and the rest is history.
“I’m glad I did [add education to my current major]. It was a good decision,” Zens said.
The teacher from Fergus Falls, who was mentioned earlier, is a big reason why Zens loves history and chose to become a teacher. This teacher was Arlin Nikolas, who was a “really good professor,” and “pretty entertaining,” according to Zens.
Zens is another lucky teacher who got to student teach at the same place he would eventually work at. While Dougherty was observing his ways, he noticed that Zens flailed his arms a lot, which was distracting for everyone. Zens tried his best to keep it under control, but sometimes would not notice it, so he told his students to give a signal when they saw his arms start moving around. However, this was no normal signal, oh no. Rather than having his students just raise their hand or clap or something, he would have them ‘caw’ like birds.
“All of a sudden the class would start going, ‘Ca-caw! Ca-Caw!” and that would tell me my wings were flapping,” Zens laughed.
Dougherty suggested that Zens hold a ruler to keep his body movements to a minimum, which obviously stuck with him to this day.
Many funny things have happened with Zens’ meter sticks throughout the years. A funny, but terrifying memory comes from our own experience in his class two years ago. While Zens was lecturing, he was gesturing with his stick a little too aggressively, and accidentally let go and it flew towards our desks. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but we definitely saw our lives flash before our eyes as the stick came hurtling towards us in the front row. We will always laugh about this memory.
More recently, his students bought him a new metal stick after his wooden one snapped. Then the brand new stick was MIA for a few days.
“The metal ruler disappeared one day, and I came back. . . it was like right before April Fool’s Day, and my ruler was placed on my whiteboard and it was covered and bedazzled,” Zens said.
Students have also enjoyed hiding Zens’ new and stylish meter stick throughout the classroom. It never seems to stay in the same place, and Zens always enjoys searching for it at the beginning of his day.
When Zens is not at school passionately lecturing with his beloved stick, he enjoys a multitude of activities. Recently, Mr. Fisher has gotten him into biking, and he has enjoyed golfing with other fellow teachers. He also spends lots of time caring for his little springer spaniel dog, who is very energetic. In the summer, he enjoys going to his family lake cabin, which is near his hometown. Here he enjoys wake surfing and skiing.
Zens’ favorite historical time period is hands-down the Russian Revolution, as many of his own students would probably know with how much time he spends talking about it.
“You got all kinds of crazy characters [in the Russion Revolution] like Lenin and Rasputin, and those types of guys,” Zens said.
However, he’d love to live during the Renaissance in Italy if he was rich, or during the Scientific Revolution era.
“That would have been a fun time. A lot of cool things happened during that time,” Zens said.
Though Zens loves his teaching job, he thinks it would be fun to be a full-time coach, as he enjoys coaching at North part-time. Zens also would want Bruce Willis to play him in a movie, as he believes they are very similar in personality and looks.
Finally, Zens would like to leave all the high schoolers with his words of wisdom: “get rid of those dumb sayings.”
“If I never hear ‘no cap’ again, that would be great,” Zens said.
He proceeded to also say he doesn’t like the word “lowkey” and he’s only a little okay with the word, “sus.” Zens would really just like students to never use these “nonsense words” at a job interview or any other professional setting.
Though Zens does not have any hidden talents and says he’s “pretty unremarkable,” we know all of his students and coworkers would disagree. I think it’s safe to say that we all are grateful Zens did not become a museum curator and is a part of our Fargo North family.