Omega Teaching Posts

The Hardest Thing to Write

Many of you know me as a writing teacher, but I am also a mother of three children. My youngest child, Gregory Lazich, recently died on May 14, 2019, after a four-year struggle with cancer. He was just seventeen.
Below are my two different obituaries for him. This is the hardest thing to write as a mother. If you did not know him, I hope these words will give you a glimpse of what he was like and what his family and friends have lost.

Obituary #1
Gregory Tsay Lazich


Obituary #2

Gregory Tsay Lazich

October 12, 2001-May 14, 2089

Mr. Gregory Tsay Lazich of Menlo Park, California passed away May 14, 2089 at the ripe old age of 87 after a long and happy life filled with family and friends.

Gregory was born to parents Michael Lazich and Jennifer Tsay on October 12, 2001 in Palo Alto, CA. The youngest of three children, he attended Adelante Spanish Immersion School, Hillview Middle School and Sequoia High School. In high school, he played clarinet in Jazz Band, was a member of the robotics team and played right field on JV and Varsity Baseball.

E-sports was Greg’s true calling and by 2017 he was ranked in the top 100 of the North American League of Legends players. UC Irvine gave him an e-sports scholarship but after his freshman year, Greg stopped out and became a professional gamer.

In his twenties, he played on the North American Team Solo Mid and participated in the 2021 World Championships held in Seoul. He eventually fulfilled his lifelong dream when the top South Korean team SKT recruited him, nicknaming him “Young Faker.”

In 2024, Greg returned to UC Irvine earning his degree in computer science. In 2028, he played on the first US Olympic e-sports team at the Los Angeles Summer Games. E-gaming allowed him to travel the world and he visited South Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Spain.

Although repetitive stress injuries forced him to retire by the age of 30, Greg continued his love of e-gaming by working at Riot Games and later Tencent. He also co-founded Sriracha Games, later acquired by Amazon-Disney and was able to retire by age 45.

In 2030, Greg married Heidi Turner. They had three children and divorced amicably in 2050. In his sixties, he met the love of his life, Sheila Broflovski, at the bar mitzvah of his grand-nephew. Greg and Sheila got married and honeymooned on Artemis, the first lunar city. His family and friends attended services via the Tesla self-driving rocketship and spent two memorable weeks at the Elon Musk Dark Side of the Moon Suites.

Greg is survived by his widow Sheila, his daughters Aubrey (Tyler), Lesley (Daniel) and Kenny; his stepchildren, Dwight, Angela, and Jim; his sister Ariana; four grandchildren, his nephews Devin and Jason and his niece Aiyana.

He is preceded in death by his first wife, Heidi Turner, his parents, Michael and Jennifer and his brother, Alexander.

That is the story Greg’s family wishes could be told. But cancer stole away his story, both his present one and his future one.

In June 2015, Greg was diagnosed with Stage IV Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS), a rare, aggressive, stem cell muscle cancer. He had just graduated from Hillview Middle School. The average lifespan of ARMS patients is 4 years from diagnosis and Greg survived 3 years and 11 months.

For 47 months, Greg stoically endured chemotherapy, radiation, relapses and surgeries. He also participated in clinical trials and one compassionate use of an experimental combination drug therapy. During his brief remissions, he was able to attend some of his sophomore and junior years of high school and travel to Disney World and Hawaii. He even managed to rank in the top 100 of the North American League of Legends players in 2017.

The family thanks the doctors and nurses at Kaiser Pediatric Oncology and Kaiser Hospice. We are also grateful for the researchers at CC-TDI who have dedicated their careers to finding treatments for rare childhood cancers like Greg’s.

Please join our Celebration of Greg’s Life, Sunday June 30th from 2-6pm at the Redwood City Women’s Club, 149 Clinton Street. Greg’s favorite foods will be served from 2:30-5:30pm. A short program will start at 3:00pm. Come anytime to share memories of Greg. RSVPs appreciated but not required. Casual dress. Please wear his favorite color blue.

Instead of flowers, Greg’s family requests donations to:

  1. Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute (CC-TDI):
  2. Tyler’s Grace Foundation:


Not Too Early: How 9th and 10th Graders Can Benefit from Common Application College Questions

Every summer I offer a week-long class for entering 11th and 12th graders that focuses on the Common Application and University of California (UC) questions used for college admissions. These questions essentially ask students to tell a story about themselves.

This past summer, several entering 9th and 10th graders attended my College Application Workshop. At first, I was concerned that the younger students would be reluctant to answer these questions; most teens do not want to write about “something meaningful to your identity” or “a time you challenged authority.” However, the class went well, and student feedback has convinced me that 9th and 10th graders benefit from answering the college application questions ahead of time.

By answering one or two Common App questions every year, high school students can practice and hone their own personal writing style. Surprisingly, I have noticed that juniors and seniors have more difficulty writing personal stories with an engaging voice. The younger students often write better stories. Perhaps this is due to what is valued in higher education—conformity over creativity. After years of AP and honors classes, students learn to write in a formal academic style that earns them an “A.” However, this bland, generic style, full of SAT words and passive constructions, only leads to a bland, generic essay, easily ignored by a college admissions counselor who must plow through hundreds of applications each day.

To avoid writing a dull, application essay, I recommend that starting in 9th grade, students answer one or two of the Common App or UC questions each year. This will allow them to:

  1. Realize earlier in high school the need to pursue extracurricular activities and leadership roles that truly interest them. Teens can write a stronger personal essay about activities they love.
  2. Record their thoughts and personal growth during high school. Not all teens keep a journal and being forced to write an essay every year provides a concise summary of key events in their lives.
  3. Develop their own writing style and the introspection necessary to craft a meaningful narrative. Very few teens enjoy writing about themselves, but rather than wait until senior year, they can start practicing sooner.

At the beginning of each school year, teachers often ask students to write about themselves so that they can get to know them. Rather than waste this opportunity, teachers should have their students answer a Common App or UC question. So far, I have not heard of any teachers who do this. Suggest this to your child’s teacher. Here are links to these questions.

No More Bullet Points! What Your Student Should Know for PowerPoint Presentations

If your child’s classroom routinely uses technology, s/he has most likely had to give a PowerPoint (PPT) presentation. Even though PPT is taught as early as the 4th grade, some teachers still adhere to 1990s design rules when Microsoft first introduced the software. For example, one student I tutored had a school PPT assignment where every word in his oral presentation had to be typed onto a slide lest grade points be deducted. Can you imagine listening to 30 sixth graders reading off of slides?

Two major innovations, the 2001 introduction of Google Images and the 2006 introduction of TED Talks, have led to a more elegant way to create PPT. With Google Images, users can quickly find, copy and paste images with abandon. TED Talks has shown that PPT presentations need not be dull, bureaucratic affairs with droning speakers reading off of bullet points.

Instead, the more enlightened PPT user understands that PPT is really a refined, adult version of the children’s picture book. Just look at any popular TED Talks. No more bullet points. No more text-heavy slides. Instead, a large visual hovers above the speaker who brings life to the material by walking, speaking and gesticulating on stage. Just like when adults read pictures books to children, the image and the speaker become integrated into one memorable and enjoyable experience.

Remember M O C K R: Five simple rules to make your PPT more like a picture book.

Make it big.

Big font size. Big visual image. Font size should be no smaller than 30 point. Think big image or close up image. If you can’t read it in the thumbnail or printout, you can’t read it from the back row of the room.

One thought, one slide.

Your oral presentation can further explain the one thought. Remember, PowerPoint is Picture Book.


Keep your design, font, images and colors consistent. Choose one type of font and vary it by using different sizes and styles (italics, bold). For graphic images, use the same style, images and color scheme. For example, if your images are photographs, stick with photographs. Consider extending images to the outer edge to eliminate prominent borders. Don’t mix photographs and cartoons. Keep sight lines (eye gaze, arrows and diagonals) pointed towards your important information and not pointing out of the slide frame.

Keep it simple.

White space is nice space. Don’t overwhelm the viewer with too much information on a slide. Keep text to a minimum. You can explain more in your speech. Use handouts with additional information. For charts and graphs, emphasize the top 3 numbers. No more bullet points!

Rule of thirds.

This is a visual design principle that divides the slide area into thirds, either top to bottom or side to side. Rather than center information on the page, place information so it takes up one or two-thirds of the area. Simple asymmetry creates a more appealing layout.

Remember to cite your sites and where you copied your images if you did not create your own. Creative Commons is an organization that works with many websites like Flickr and Picasa. You can customize a Creative Commons search by selecting “advanced search” from From there, click “usage rights.” Further narrow your searches with options such as “free to use or share.” The website has content that has been approved for commercial use or further modification.

So make sure your students (and you, if you choose) learn a better way to create PPT. Several teachers I know have already used MOCKR in their classes. Please spread the meme.

Suggested Reading or Viewing Interview with Robert Gaskin, credited with inventing Microsoft’s PPT. Within several years of launch, PPT had a 95% market share of presentation software. In his interview, Gaskin reflects how ubiquitous PPT has become, quoting the Harvard neuroscientist Stephen M. Kosslyn: “For many purposes, PowerPoint presentations are a superior medium of communication, which is why they have become standard in so many fields.”  Jennifer Lopez’s plunging neckline-to-the-waistline emerald green dress worn at the Grammy’s prompted Google to introduced Google Images. It was the most popular search the company had received up to that time. Accessed Sept. 2, 2017. Last Week Tonight HBO. First aired May 8, 2016. TED Talks have become so popular they are now parodied. See John Oliver’s hilarious send up with TODD Talks. Begins about minute 16.

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen (Berkeley: New Riders Press, 2008). You need only look at Reynold’s makeovers with “before” and “after” PPT examples to understand his aesthetics. The book emphasizes Japanese Zen principles which I have translated into MOCKR. Reynolds’ book should be required reading or at least skimming for anyone who has to do PPT. His appendix showcases great PPT of different styles. Sophisticated business and professional users should also consider Nancy Duarte’s books Slide:ology and Resonate. Duarte’s firm designed the slides for Al Gore’s documentary The Inconvenient Truth and many TED Talks.

Luke O’Neil, “A Guide to Happy (and Legal) Tumblr-ing,” Wall Street Journal 21, May 2011.