Farewell Mr. Winter!

Ellen Zhan

“Mr. Winter is Mr. Winter. He’s larger than life.”

– Ms. Eskenazi (AP Statistics)

Mr. Wesley (Wes) Winter has taught Chemistry and AP Chemistry at PCS for the past five years. 

In 2018, while he was completing his M.A. in Teaching at the University of San Francisco, his then-girlfriend-now-wife Regina (a name well-known to anybody who has talked to Mr. Winter for more than three minutes) was working at the coastal biology building right down the road from PCS. After dropping her off one day, he drove up the street, saw our campus, and searched it up. He saw the school’s 2017 ranking as the 10th best public school in the nation by US News & World Report, as well as an open position for chemistry teaching; “It was like, ‘Oh my god, I could work at one of the top schools in the country.’” 

With a B.S. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley, Mr. Winter previously tutored in science for high school, middle school and college students, substitute-taught, and was an instructional science assistant in elementary and middle schools (Marentette). But his first job as a classroom teacher, “the first time I was ‘Mr. Winter,’” was here at PCS. “This was such a good start to learn how to be a teacher. The students at the school… are in general very intelligent and hardworking and caring for each other and their teachers… I like my coworkers so much too, they’re some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and they’re so inspiring to work with.”

Likewise, Mr. Winter’s students and coworkers hold a deep respect and appreciation for him. Biology teacher Mr. Kyle Walters remarks, “he really knows the chemistry, and does a good job with the demonstrations to get the students really excited about that stuff.” Mr. Winter’s teaching style is informed by his own experience as a student, and he believes that one goal of being a teacher is to not take oneself too seriously. 

Thus, as Mr. Walters observes, “he has a really good connection with the students – [maybe it helps that] he seems pretty kid-like already.” For example, Mr. Winter is known to talk with his class about podcasts (You’re Wrong About is a favorite of his), interesting internet discoveries (“there’s this subreddit called r/whatswrongwithyourdog”), recent reads (“books are supposed to make you feel emotion… dumb is an emotion”), and how “you can’t always hear dogs fart because they don’t have buttcheeks.” Indeed, AP Chemistry student Maura Blackburn describes Mr. Winter as “very chaotic, but in the best way possible.” 

More than anything, Mr. Winter says, “I just love talking about science.” Former student and current TA Marco Panzardi agrees that, “he’s really upbeat,” and that it’s obvious “he overall just really loves teaching.” Summed up by student Maxwell Gross, “He makes it easy to care about science.”

Mr. Winter is leaving PCS in part due to the cost of living and commuting, and also just because the Santa Cruz chapter in his and Regina’s life is nearing its close. “We want to be a little bit closer to our families,” which would be more East Bay or Sacramento. He adds jokingly, “I kind of want the Berkeley chapter [of our life] to reopen, but speaking of very expensive places to live…”

Aside from teaching chemistry, Mr. Winter has chaperoned the PCS Berkeley Model UN (BMUN) trip every year, taken classroom interns from the UCSC program, served as head of the science department for two years, facilitated Chess Club and Pre-Med Club, led the high-demand Film seminar (for which actor Adam Scott came in for a Q&A), occasionally lent his drumming talents to PCS performing arts shows (including last year’s Charlie Brown musical), and spoke at graduation for the class of 2022.

Reflecting on his favorite memories at PCS, that speech was the first to come to mind: “That was such an honor… I don’t always feel like I’m the greatest writer or speaker… [but] to actually give words of advice – I was really proud of that.” Also, “controversial opinion,” Mr. Winter adds, “I really liked being at home for COVID.” Making hot lunch, cuddling with his pit bull Rufus (another name all his students know), “I walked Rufus every morning… I was very sad and starved for human attention, but I loved being at home and sleeping in,” he laughs.

Overall, he cherishes the moments, including but not limited to the BMUN trips and playing in the musical, when he got to spend time with and watch his students “grow and learn and just be excited with [their] friends, and all those ‘Aha!’ moments – it was rad.”

Having spoken to many of his colleagues and students, I believe I speak for all of us when I say we are eternally grateful for the knowledge and joy that Mr. Winter has brought to the PCS community. We hope that he finds similar if not greater fulfillment in his journey ahead, knowing that wherever he, Regina, and Rufus end up, that community will sparkle a little bit brighter with his infectious ebullience.


Works Cited:

Marentette, Chris. “Wes Winter.” Pacific Collegiate School – Faculty & Staff, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-zAd66shrtBr_5Z8Y4x1gyFTuLdoGSiRyvPkkuGxQdg/edit. Accessed 23 May 2023.