Secrets, Secrets are no fun, unless you share with everyone
"I am a professional kendama player for the USA team." Quick, who said this?
Zackary Yourd, a student teacher to Mr. Kevin Gallagher, has another life outside of learning to be a teacher. Shocker!
Unless you have any sort of math class with Gallagher, you would not know of his side kick. For those of you who don't, pay attention because here's the dirt.
He was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A close neighbor to KO, Yourd attended high school at Mt. Lebanon and is currently in his last year of college at Penn State University (Main Campus).
Yourd's passion in life is snowboarding. Throughout high school and early college years, he competed all over the Mid-Atlantic. He has slowly been stepping away from contests and focusing more on filming video parts for his snowboard sponsors. For two years, he was the president of PSU's Snowboarding Club.
Besides his love for snowboarding, as stated earlier, he is also a professional kendama player. Some may not know what a kendama, pronounced Ken-Da-Ma, is exactly.
"Kendama is an ancient Japanese skill toy composed of a wooden ball and handle that are connected via string. The objective of the game is to juggle the ball in the cups on the handle as well as performing various delicate balances using the two pieces," explained Yourd.
Since joining the Kendama USA team in 2011, he has had the opportunity to travel the world to compete and teach the skill on a global level.
Yourd continues on to say, "Kendama is great because it teaches valuable qualities such as patience, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination, while it also promotes being active and not playing videos games or staring at your phone all day."
Most adults can agree with Yourd that teenagers waste their time on technology and do not spend enough time getting active. He has stayed active all through his years at Penn State University, and he is pleased with the outcome.
"Going to PSU might have been the best decision of my life, which is funny because I originally never wanted to go there and rather go to Boulder, Colorado. Penn State has something for everyone, whether its majors, clubs, Greek life or sports. There are endless amounts of educational resources and facilities, and their professors do a great job at preparing you for your post-undergraduate career in the real world," he said with great love. "It also has a very fun ‘collegey’ vibe and there is always something to do so you are never bored. WE ARE!"
Someone has school spirit.
As for post-graduation, Yourd spoke about his after-college plans, "It is hard to say right now. If I do not immediately find a job teaching, I might go back and work for Red Bull or even work full-time for Kendama USA."
Before he completes his schooling at PSU, he must finish student teaching another semester. For that semester, he chose to go to New Zealand. He's an adventurous soul. Going from small town school, Keystone Oaks, to a different country is a giant leap.
Yourd said, in jest,"Who knows, maybe I’ll have so much fun in New Zealand I’ll move there."
He boasted about his new travels, "I really wanted to understand and submerse myself in another country's educational system and culture, as it would provide many valuable experiences. I chose New Zealand because its absolutely beautiful there would be no language barrier between the 'Kiwis' and myself. I am very excited for this opportunity."
Going to this country is giving him an opportunity to also expand on his hobbies.
"My mentor teacher in New Zealand is the snowboard/surf coach for the school, so something tells me I might be doing a little bit of that while I’m over there."
To broaden his knowledge on becoming a math teacher, PSU placed him in the Pittsburgh area at Keystone Oaks for three months.
"I was beyond stoked when I found out that of all schools they chose KO."
However, Yourd didn't always want to be a teacher.
"Originally, I was accepted into PSU in their engineering program, but after a year felt that it wasn’t the right path for me."
He went on to say, "I always understood and liked math because it is so relevant and used in your everyday life. I also loved the satisfaction of teaching people and seeing them finally 'get it.' So I thought why not combine the two and go to school to become a math teacher!?"
Yourd does not regret it for a second and so far he is really enjoying it all.
To continue with his positive attitude, Yourd speaks highly of his cooperating teacher, Mr. Gallagher.
"Mr. Gallagher is not only a great teacher, but also a hardworking and extremely friendly person. He has the mentality of ‘I’m mainly here to entertain…but also teach you something,' which I think is a great quality to have as a teacher."
Holding Gallagher to high standards, Yourd pushes on to say, "He also holds many different titles and obligations both within and outside of the school that keep him really busy. He’s showed me that that’s not necessarily a bad thing and that you have to stay organized and maintain a positive attitude with it all. I’m lucky and very grateful to have Mr. Gallagher as my mentor teacher at KO."
The students at Keystone Oaks have made a good impression on this newcomer.
"After the first day of school at KO, I could tell that all the students were great kids. They are all very welcoming and make me excited to wake up and come here every morning."
All of the classes that he student teaches are seniors and he can relate, "Even though ‘senioritis’ is a lingering factor for some of students, every student still pays attention and gives respect to me when teaching."
Commenting on the school, he said, "It’s clear that everybody knows everybody” which I think the students embraced in a positive manner and act as a big family."
Zack Yourd is a "glass half full" kind of guy. He explained how he got to be that person.
"Ever since I was a little kid and able to understand words, my grandpa who is one of my biggest heroes in life always told me, ‘Use good judgment.’ I’ve taken that to heart and live by it. Still when I see him today, he always asks me, ‘what do I always say?’ and he almost tears up when I tell him."
Yourd believes, "Life is too short to get caught up in little things, so having fun and keeping a positive attitude is key to happiness."
KO wishes him all the best in the years to come. Maybe he can be the next role model in some teenager's life with his kendama by his side.
His secret life is no longer a secret!