Physics teacher Glenn Mangold makes a demonstration to a student during a physics class. Mangold, who has been at SCDS for 13 years, left the school at the end of the 2020-21 school year. (Photo courtesy of Emily Allshouse)

Physics teacher’s departure leaves behind ‘big shoes to fill’

Over the past 13 years, high school students have gotten used to a few mainstays of the physics room: the bulky laptops from another era, the dusty “Conceptual Physics” textbooks and the reserved physics teacher, Glenn Mangold. 

However, Mangold will be exiting the scene at the end of this year, saying in an email to the student body that the school is “no longer a good fit for me as an academic workplace.” He added that his decision has nothing to do with students, their families or COVID-19. Mangold said Country Day students were the best students he has ever taught. 

He has no plans in place after he leaves the school, but he will be staying in Sacramento.

At Country Day, Mangold — who has a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in classics from the University of California, Santa Barbara —   teaches freshman physics, AP Physics C and the Great Books electives: Introduction to Philosophy and The Bible. In the past, he also taught AP Calculus BC, which is now being taught by math teacher Patricia Jacobsen.

“I like teaching physics a lot. I think it is important for students to know the laws of the universe and know how they are described mathematically,” Mangold said.

In the fall, a new hire, Malak Abou Faour, will be teaching Physics and AP Physics C. Head of High School Brooke Wells, biology teacher Kellie Whited and chemistry teacher Victoria Conner were involved in the hiring process for his replacement, Whited said.

Malak has a bachelor’s degree, online bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in education from Lebanese University. Malak also has been teaching physics at a high school for 13 years.

Mangold began teaching at Country Day in fall of 2007, transferring from Folsom High School, after teaching there for a year. He sought out a job at Country Day because he said he didn’t have enough experience to qualify for the credentials required to teach at a public school. Mangold previously taught at a Catholic school in Ohio for four years and at another school for one year in Massachusetts.

At Country Day, Mangold quickly adjusted and became a well-respected teacher among the faculty and student body, Jacobsen said. 

“Even though he was kind of like the new kid on the block, I started looking to him for not teaching advice, but teaching style,” Jacobsen said. “I remember sitting in his classroom trying to absorb more of his style.” 

His calm demeanor and diverse life experience and knowledge makes him such a loved teacher, Jacobsen said.

Allison Zhang, ’19, described Mangold as “one of the best teachers” she’s ever had.

“He knew how to teach so that everyone was able to understand,” she said. “He was well-liked by everyone, which is extremely hard to do, especially in a school filled with great teachers.”

Zhang continues to use her AP Physics C notes in her college physics classes.

Marigot Fackenthal, ’17, said Mangold’s advice and teaching style also had an impact on her.

“He would hate to hear this, but he was one of the big reasons I chose to go to Cornell,” Fackenthal said. “He wasn’t that STEM teacher that was like, ‘You like physics? Do physics for the rest of your life. STEM is the way!’ He pointed out to me that I was a person who liked other topics and said maybe I should look for a school that would give me a more well-rounded education.” 

Fackenthal and Zhang aren’t the only Country Day graduates who are thankful for Mangold.

In 2019, Mangold was presented with the Francie Tidey Award for Excellence in Education, which honors a faculty member who alumni decide has made an exceptional contribution to the SCDS community.

“I’ve yet to win it, but there’s no world where I should win before him,” Whited said of Mangold receiving the award. “He’s just the apex of excellent teaching and someone I model my classroom after even though we have very different teaching styles.”

Whited described Mangold as a mentor to all who gives exceptional advice.

“He’s someone that so many people go to when they have a problem because we know he’s going to provide incredibly thoughtful advice and help you methodically work through the problem,” she said.

“And that’s such a gift to our community.”

Mangold first began teaching when he was in high school.

“I knew I would do something with teaching since I used to help and teach my classmates in high school and college,” he said. “I would tutor sometimes for free and sometimes for money.” 

After graduating from MIT, Mangold worked as a components test engineer for two years before deciding he didn’t want that as a career. 

Mangold spent the next several years working the graveyard shift at motels, teaching himself history, Greek and Latin. He said this knowledge was useful in earning his master’s in classics. 

Eventually, Mangold and his wife moved to Sacramento, where he was hired by Folsom High School as a last-minute replacement for a physics teacher.

A year later, Mangold’s career began at Country Day. 

Reflecting on his time at the school, Mangold said his favorite memory was of a girls basketball game around 2016.

“Our team was losing, and it was evident the other team was more skilled, but then our coach put every girl on full-court press for the entire second half, and we won because we fought harder,” Mangold said. “Determination beat skill.”

News of Mangold’s departure was shocking to many, including Jacobsen.

“It’s our loss,” she said. “But the fact is, this will make Mangold happy, so good for him. There are big shoes to fill, especially because we’re losing someone who has so much to offer, but I’m confident the school hired someone who can do the job.”

Jacobsen did find one bright spot in Mangold’s departure.

“Since he won the Francie Tidey award in 2019, he won’t stop bragging about it,” Jacobsen joked.

Mangold’s reply?

“Which one is Jacobsen?”

— By Sanjana Anand and Arijit Trivedi

Originally published in the May 25 edition of the Octagon.

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