Sunday, June 8, 2008

Shane Zanetti

Shane Zanetti

I’ve had the pleasure of living with Shane for the last three years at SUNY Geneseo. He’s been a great friend of mine since one of the first few months we were at school together. We met as teammates on the Cross Country and Track teams while we attended school at Geneseo.

Shane possesses an incredible discipline when it comes to taking on his life pursuits. Much of that stems from his passion for a healthy lifestyle and a desire to live a well balanced life. Recently while we were traveling in Switzerland with some of our other friends from Geneseo, Shane accepted a job to teach ninth grade Global Studies at Campbell-Savona High School. There, he intends to begin his career as a High School Social Studies teacher and coach.

Although he often says, “I waste zero seconds,” in a joking tone, there is a part in all of us who know Shane and realize he isn’t kidding. His dedication, creativity, quick wit, and intelligence will no doubt have a tremendous impact on many of America’s youth in the classroom. It is an honor to know him and a pleasure to feature him in The VIP Profiles. ~JWN

VIP: What is your definition of success?

SZ: Success is goal setting. Accepting challenges and then meeting or exceeding them. You need to personalize them by basing then on your own desires for achievement. If you tell yourself that you want to mow the lawn once a week and you accomplish that, you have found success. Then you have been personally successful. In an effort to achieve more, you need to continually push yourself though; setting higher and higher goals.

VIP: Who inspires you? Why?

SZ: My family inspires me. My Grandpa John Zanetti is both very inspiring and motivating. He was an educator for over 30 years and now works hard as a consultant for schools building their master schedules. He has shown me the importance of building relationships and maintaining them. My parents are both very hardworking. My father has owned his own business for 20 years and my mother does every little thing that keeps our family going. My brother and two sisters are extremely talented and all of the great things they have ahead of them inspires me.

Finally, my peers, teammates, and fellow students from SUNY Geneseo are important to me. I’m a person who gets satisfaction from the growth of others and I get inspired when other people find success, especially when I had a part in helping them achieve that goal. I saw that happen countless times at Geneseo.

VIP: What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?

SZ: Strengths: not afraid to work hard, not afraid to stretch myself to the limits to achieve a goal. This also leads to a weakness though; sometimes I do stretch myself too far and try to do too many things. But, I think that hard work along with the desire to influence the people around me in a positive way help fulfill me. Putting others interests’ in front of my own desires is a strength I would say. In addition, I try to keep a good sense of humor which gives me an ability to roll with the punches. I don’t get too bent of shape by things.

VIP: Now, I know you are planning a career in secondary education. Why do you want to be a teacher?

SZ: I had good influence from people in my family. My Grandpa John has worked in education for five decades. My grandmother was a teacher for a long time. And my dad was going to be a teacher before he went into business for himself. I had a great social studies teacher at Saratoga Springs, David Patterson. He was an inspiration. I always had a dream to be a pro-athlete, but when that dream died I decided coaching was the next closest thing. So, teaching was a natural outgrowth of the coaching. When I realized I wasn’t going to be Michael Jordan or run in the Olympics, I took the next best step.

VIP: What are some things you want to bring to the classroom?

SZ: I think it is important to instill in people the value of an education. Never shy away from opportunities you have to be a global citizen and be acceptable to new ideas and diverse thought and understand that you may be in a small isolated part of the state; small town, big town, but there are always ways to contribute and things to give to society and culture around you. Being active, aware, and educated are all valuable traits to have and I want my students to take those things away. You don’t have to be a good student to be a good person. You don’t have to be able to name off the state capitals to be a good citizen, but you do have to understand the importance of participation.

VIP: I know you’re a dedicated athlete, having competed for SUNY Geneseo in three sports (cross country, indoor and outdoor track) for all four years of college. What inspires this motivation and discipline? How does that relate to what you want to do with life?

SZ: It comes back to my earlier definition for success. I had goals set to become a great athlete. For me, it took such a long time to break 2 minutes in the 800m, so it kept that drive going for a long time. I was lucky at Geneseo to have great teammates and Coach Woods. I learned a lot from all of them and was able to give a lot back. I liked the idea that I was a senior and was able to set the tone for the next generation and I was inspired to stick with it so I could get to that point.

My family has always been active and competitive. I never had parents that were the little league coach or anything, but I was always pushed to do my best, have fun with it, and put it all out there. Also, the idea of health and personal fitness is a big part of having a healthy lifestyle. We were never pressured to participate in sports, but we were competitive with each other. We were lucky because we were blessed with some talent, and with success came more desire, so it built on itself over the years.

VIP: What are some short term and mid term goals for you?

SZ: In the short term, I want to successfully complete my first year of teaching at Campbell-Savona; settle into a new place and become a part of that community, meeting the expectations of my peers at the school. I want to consistently try to learn and develop; become a better educator, coach, and person. It is pretty general, but it is a good baseline for laying the foundation for my professional life and complete independence in my personal life; hopefully without too many problems.

Midterm would be to find a good school district to settle down in and become a part of a community full time. Find the place where I can really begin the next phase of my life. Move out of the stepping stone phase and whatever that phase may consist of.

VIP: If you could pass on one piece of information to the people of the world, what would it be?

SZ: This might be a little different from my classroom answer, but I don’t like the idea of people wasting their talents. It distresses me when I see people who take their strengths for granted. It is something that has been passed down in our family; you have a responsibility to use your talents to the best of your ability. I think people will find happiness this way. You will find achievement, fulfillment, and success by pursuing these strengths. I think that is why runners are drawn together because there is that common ground of pursuit. At Geneseo, I know I felt that with my colleagues on the team.

VIP: Why running?

SZ: Why running? I was good at it initially. I was successful. So, after I found that success, I set goals that I wanted to be the fastest in elementary and middle school. With that attitude of lifetime fitness, I would workout with my father very early in the morning. With the talents I was blessed with, combined with a little push in the right direction and some goals to get after, I started to enjoy it. At Saratoga Springs, I had the opportunity to achieve a lot because they had a strong program.

You can really immerse yourself in the sport there so it just built up. We won a state championship in tenth grade and I made great friends who kept up with it; for example, my friend Sean Curran who ran for Colgate. You have friends that you meet in class or out, but when you have a group of guys that finish a nasty workout on a tough day or race together and put it all on the line on a Saturday, it creates a strong bond. You completely expose yourself and from that you often find true friendship.

VIP: Who are three people, from any time period, that you would like to meet?

SZ: I often got asked on interviews, “Who would you like to bring in to lecture?” One of my answers was always Teddy Roosevelt. His love for pursuing and protecting wildlife in the country was a remarkable thing that he was able to do. It stood out much when we were in Switzerland. You see so much beautiful scenery over there that it makes you appreciate what Teddy did for the United States that much more. I really think Teddy understood that.

Next is Muhammad Ali. He had such a revolutionary personality. He understood and was active in the world around him. He was charismatic, talented, but he understood the importance of hard work. He inspires me because he came up from nothing really.

That last is a classic runner answer; Steve Prefontaine. He had similar characteristics to Ali; charisma and passion. He was an inspiration to so many other athletes, enabling them to pick up the sport and really create an American running revolution.

VIP: What are some compelling books that you have read which have made a lasting impression on you?

SZ: Teacher Man by Frank McCourt because it really shows a person the influence a teacher can have if they decide to truly dedicate themselves to the students. It was truly inspiring to me. Also, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sinclair. When I looked at it from the aspect of a teacher it moved me. It is crucial to understand that your students are going to come from so many different backgrounds and influences in their life. It is crucial to understand that personal connections will help enable your students to achieve success.

Finally, the book Once a Runner by John Parker, Jr. It is an inspiring book and reveals that love and passion for a personal interest can have a tremendous influence on your life; helping you find great success and fulfillment along the way.

VIP: Final thoughts?

SZ: This is something I learned from our friend Scott Allen (Law School student at University of Maryland) and it is advice I recently told our friend Matt Koennecke; “I’m jealous of you because you’ve got three years left, but I’m excited about the next step.” Whatever you do, always do it with no regrets and to your best ability because you never know when something will spark the next interest for your life and could lead to something truly special for you.

Never take things for granted. Always push for that extra little bit. Don’t be afraid to take a few steps back to make a big leap forward at some point. The results could be truly phenomenal. If you live life without regrets and always do your best, you will always guarantee the best outcome. You want to be able to look back and be content with things as they were in high school or college, or any other time.