Photography Teacher And Image Director Pete Zivkov Retires After 15 Years


Photography teacher and Image Director Pete Zivkov stands next to an old TV camera stage prop while holding his modern camera. Photo courtesy of Cyrus Lowe.

Charlotte Palmer, Copy Editor

After 15 years at Menlo, photography teacher and Image Director Pete Zivkov is retiring. Zivkov has taught the beginning and advanced photography classes at Menlo since 2006, has been a chaperone for Menlo Abroad’s Tanzania trip and manages the school’s extensive digital library. 

When he first started at Menlo, Zivkov introduced digital photography to Menlo’s photography program. “Since then, I’ve added modern methods and tools like Photoshop, cellphone photography, editing with apps and the use of blogging and social media into Menlo’s photography program,” Zivkov wrote in an email to the Coat of Arms. However, his contributions to Menlo have extended beyond the classroom. “I would say that my biggest contribution is the Menlo Photo Archive on Flickr,” Zivkov said, “It is a searchable online collection of 80,000 high quality photos documenting life at Menlo from 2007 to the present.” 

I love it when my students discover a passion or excitement for their own photography,” Zivkov said. This love for helping students with their passions is what many of Zivkov’s students admire about him. “Mr. Z always let us take creative direction with our projects, and I really enjoyed having that in [my] photography class,” senior Sonia Agarwal said. “If there ever was anything specific that I wanted to try, he would help me tailor the projects to allow for that.” Senior Sadie Stinson agrees with that sentiment. “He’s so open to new ideas and exploring new concepts with you,” Stinson said. Stinson and Agarwal believe that this open-minded attitude and teaching style is what made Zivkov’s instruction so meaningful.

Stinson also admires Zivkov’s upbeat attitude and personality. “I would say he’s a very, very friendly and creative person,” Stinson said. “He’s been a pillar of the Menlo community for such a long time.” Agarwal and Stinson agree that his approachable personality will be missed by his students. “He is a very welcoming and familiar face that I know we’ll all miss a lot next year,” Stinson said.

Zivkov also has many fond memories of Menlo students. On his first day at Menlo in 2006, students cheered for one another at an assembly event. “My high school wasn’t like that at all,” Zivkov said. “I realized it was more than just spirit at Menlo, there was genuine love and kindness at this school.” 

Another favorite memory of his was reuniting students and families at the conclusion of the Menlo Abroad trips. “Those students were so grateful to be home and so eager to share all the amazing learning experiences they just went through,” Zivkov said. “It’s very satisfying to see their growth and maturity between the start and the end of the trip.”

Zivkov also has great respect for the Menlo administration and his colleagues. “I’ve cherished the trust and freedom I was given by the Menlo Administration to teach and explore photography with students in my own way,” Zivkov said. He believes this level of trust has greatly contributed to his successful photography program. He also is sad to leave his fellow Menlo teachers next year. “I’ve never met more interesting, inspiring and hard-working people.”

Zivkov has been thinking about the next chapter of his life for some time. While he initially planned to continue to teach for a few more years, he ultimately decided to bring his teaching career to an end due to difficulties encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I found teaching this year to be much more difficult and less enjoyable than ever, so I decided that it was time for me to move on,” Zivkov said.

After leaving Menlo, Zivkov hopes to enjoy simple activities that he has not had a chance to because of his busy schedule. “In addition to personal art projects, I’m an avid designer, maker, traveler, bike rider, hiker and cook,” Zivkov said. “I want to slow the pace of my life, to be a learner again, to read more.” He also plans to take care of his mother and mother-in-law with more day-to-day support. Once his wife Barbara retires from her engineering job, the couple hopes to live abroad for three to six months at a time. “We love the Bay Area, but we also love to explore and learn the culture and history of other countries,” Zivkov said.