Faculty Spotlight: Mr. Mulka

Faculty Spotlight: Mr. Mulka

Kevin Mulka is a teacher at GALA who currently teaches sixth grade math, accelerated seventh grade math, and the aerospace elective. If you’re a middle schooler at GALA, you’re very likely to have him as your teacher.

Before becoming a teacher, Mulka was a cosmetics educator for 13 years, deciding to switch careers because he was traveling too much and desired to spend more time with his family. When asked how the transition was and if he’d recommend switching careers he replied, “It was very difficult, since coming back as an adult learner is not the easiest. I highly recommend no matter what, if you have a passion for something, don’t wait, go for it right away. It is a process, but at the end of the day you’ll get through it.” He said that at the end of the day, people overestimated how hard school really was and that if you have a change of heart regarding your profession you have options.

However, things didn’t go smoothly at first when Mulka first started to teach. GALA wasn’t the first school Mulka taught at, and we discussed his experiences with intolerance and discrimination at the previous schools he has taught at. “My first year of teaching at charter school was awful. I had a lot of difficulty with tolerance, with the students and administration as well as the teachers. I was at a school that did not care about its students, they were more focused on the teacher bureaucracy and the politics between the teachers. It just wasn’t my jam, and students were very disrespectful based on my sexual orientation.”

This discrimination and rudeness Mulka experienced was so bad he considered switching careers again. He made a promise to himself that if the new school he was going to didn’t work out he would change career paths again. “Well, I was probably thinking about doing something with bees, like a beehive person. But if that wasn’t happening I’d probably go into corporate cosmetics and kind of help them with their education route, and I’d be in an office. Being in LA there are so many cosmetics companies that would give me the opportunity to do that. But the only reason I was thinking about that was because it was comfortable, it was something I knew a lot about so at that time it would be the thing to do. If I were to quit teaching now that definitely wouldn’t be an option for me, I’d probably go back to beekeeping.”

GALA proved his doubts wrong though. “My first week I was like I knew I was meant to be here. It was like I won the lottery. There was so much respect and there was so much family going on. I got more compliments on the first day of school than I ever did at my old school. And I think the mission is really great here, and I want to be able to be a part of the mission and do something about it versus standing on the sidelines. So it’s been a definite change for the best for me.”

With four years of teaching experience under his belt, Mulka continues to change and improve his technique every year. With this, he expects his students to live up to his expectations. He said that what he wanted from a student wasn’t that rigorous, “First and foremost, get my dad jokes, that’s a big thing. Second of all, just pay attention. It’s fun and exciting and I think speaking up and saying like ‘I don’t get this!’ or asking the ‘why’ is really important. My thing is I hate when people don’t ask why. It breaks my heart to see people like ‘oh I hate math’. I think that you just haven’t loved or fallen in love with math yet. I think in order to succeed it’s just, listen and you know, reach out. And that’s a good thing about our school, is that all of our students are vocal, so if you’re vocal about your confusion or vocal about your excitement that’s really key for not only my class but in other classes too.”

All in all, Mulka’s story can give us all something to take home about changing career paths and options regarding higher education in adulthood. His advice about how to navigate his classes is also valuable since it applies to many teachers here at GALA. But most importantly, we’re so glad we have him to make math and aerospace fun for everybody to enjoy!