In Memory of Zak Shaik: Teachers Reflect on Shaik’s Radiating Positivity


Carson Hollingsworth

Sophomore Shaik fishing with his paraprofessional Carson Hollingsworth in the woods together.

Maria Lemos, Editor-In-Chief

While walking through the halls, several teachers can remember sophomore Zakaria Shaik zipping past in a flash as he accelerated on his wheelchair with laughing teachers chasing behind.

“He would always ask to race me, and he would just fly. He would leave me in the dust, and he’d look at me like, ‘Dude, I beat you’,” said Carson Hollingsworth, Shaik’s paraprofessional.

Shaik was a beloved son and a dedicated student who marked the lives of those around him. He passed away in December of 2022.

“Zak didn’t talk a whole lot; he was very quiet. But you could tell what he wanted to say through his eyes,” said Hollingsworth.

Like Hollingsworth, Michael Matthews, Shaik’s math teacher, described Shaik as soft-spoken.

“He would give you these smiles and looks, and you just knew everything was going to be great,” said Matthews.

According to his teachers, Shaik had a positive regardless of the obstacles he faced in life.

“He was aware of his disability, but he didn’t let him stop that or define him,” said Amy Muta, Shaik’s English teacher.

Shaik had muscular dystrophy, which is a degenerative disorder of the muscular system. Over time, his muscles slowly deteriorated.

“I didn’t know what I was walking into, but working with him truly made me appreciate life. It was a blessing,” said Hollingsworth. “He taught me how to have a different outlook of life.”

Shaik’s positivity was infectious to all the students around him said Muta.

“He was a huge gamer, so it would always be fun to hear the kids go, ‘Oh my gosh, you should’ve saw Zak,’ or like, ‘Zak, you were killing it this weekend’,” said Muta with a laugh.

He had a mellow personality that constantly drew students to be around him. Shaik had a great sense of humor that could put a smile on everyone’s face said teachers.

“Sometimes we would play UNO in class, and he would always hit me with a plus four, but with this sly look,” Matthews recalled, chuckling.

Muta said that most of her comedic attempts went unnoticed by most of her class, however Shaik would always comfort her with a smirk.

“He had the greatest sense of humor, but he was so subtle about it,” she said.

Shaik radiated this energy to students but also channeled this into his work.

“He was a great writer, just a great ELA student and an amazing artist according to the students,” said Muta.

Matthews remembers how he came to class every day and made every minute an enjoyable experience.

There was so much to learn from Shaik. His optimism in the face of difficulty, his charismatic personality and consistent smile impacted many.

“He was a special kid, and I was very, very blessed to work with him,” said Hollingsworth.