Grover Photography
Pete Zoetmulder

Pete Zoetmulder (or Mr. Z, to everyone who knows him) could be enjoying a leisurely retirement. In fact, at 84 years old, some would argue Mr. Z deserves to kick up his feet. Instead, the World War II vet volunteers at Riverside Elementary School. He does this for one simple reason: "I love kids," he said.

For 12 years, Mr. Z has been tutoring students in math and art. Several times a week, he will hold "Z Math," which is a tutoring session for a first-year algebra class.

"He has helped hundreds of students enter junior high at a higher math level algebra," said sixth-grade teacher Juliana Seaman.

With his playful character and caring spirit, Mr. Z has a gift for helping the students not only understand math, but enjoy it, as well. "Mr. Z has taught me so much," said Riverside student Erin Weller. "Mr. Z made me feel good about myself and encouraged me to try my hardest and live our lives to the fullest."

He inspires the students with stories about his life in Holland during the Nazi invasion. He tells them of coming to America and of his family. He tells them of his wife and her Alzheimer's disease.

The students use Mr. Z as a role model. "I think it is very nice that he just comes without getting anything in return," said student Tyler Zakotnik.

"At Z Math, he teaches us so many interesting and important things," said student Kaylee Kilpatrick. "Algebra is way fun with Mr. Z and probably nobody else. I love Mr. Z, and I hate it when he's gone."

— Elise Bassett