Retired North Hollywood teacher taught generations to love science, math
William “Fitz” Fitz-Gibbon, a North Hollywood science teacher credited with launching the most successful middle-school curriculum in the country, has died. He was 77.
Fitz-Gibbon died Monday at his daughter’s home in Brentwood of complications from colon cancer surgery.
“He was loved by his students,” said his sister, Jane Fitz-Gibbon McKenna of Redding. “Even in retirement, he inspired students who graduated from Yale, MIT and Stanford.
“He made kids think they could do math and science, particularly the girls.”
Dubbed “Fitz” by generations of students at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, the science-and-math pendant was known for teaching generations of academic superstars.
In 1971, he founded the Individualized Honors Program to teach college-level math and science. He also founded the nation’s only known middle school with an Advanced Placement physics course.
His science and math whizzes won top awards across the state and nation, outscoring even top high school students. He was even written up in Time magazine in 1985.
His prescription: teaching excellence, bright kids and parental backing. And tough studies about the fundamental foundations of the universe. His seventh-graders were assigned “The Double Helix,” about the discovery of DNA.
“More work, less talk,” read a needlepoint at the back of his class.
What isn’t mentioned is that Fitz remembered the face and name of every single student he ever taught, even when they showed up to visit years later, suddenly aware of how rare it was that someone thought they could comprehend calculus at the age of 14.