Andrew Zugner, a 2008 Whitworth graduate in health, fitness and physical education/secondary education, is currently in his first year as a physical education teacher at Ontario High School, in Ontario, Ore. His extracurricular activities this fall have included coaching duties with the freshman, JV, and varsity football teams.
During his four years at Whitworth, Andrew was a member of the Pirate football team. His final two years of competition included a number of injuries that kept him sidelined but never dampened his desire to be a team player. He could often be found helping out the offensive line coach, regardless of the weather or Andrew’s physical condition. His Whitworth experiences and commitment to people have been instrumental in his first teaching position at Ontario.
“When I first came to Ontario and saw the condition of the weight room I was somewhat appalled,” says Andrew, “but I felt that it was not really my place to say anything, being a first-year teacher and all.” He continues, “After a couple of weeks of teaching classes in there, I saw how unmotivated my students were when they were heading into the weight room. There were even times when I was unmotivated to be in there. So I decided that it was time for a change. I started by talking with the other weights teacher, the principal, and some of the coaches, and I told them that if they helped fund the project I would do the work.”
Andrew raised approximately $4,000 to rejuvenate the weight room. The money included donations from the school’s coaches and its principal, as well as a gift from a local Pepsi distributor. In addition to fund-raising, Andrew invested many late nights painting the weight room to create a more energized atmosphere.
In addition to his work in athletics, Andrew has involved himself with students at as many events as possible. He chaperoned three events this fall: a powder puff football game, the homecoming dance, and an after-game dance. With his first football season behind him, he’s planning to open the weight room before and after school to allow students to work out.
“My purpose is just to do the right thing in order to give my students something they should have had a long time ago,” he says. “Most of the kids at Ontario have pretty difficult lives due to problems that range from broken families to gang activity to just being poor [approximately 60 percent of the school’s student body is on free or reduced-cost lunch]”. Andrew admits that a commitment like his consumes a lot of time, but he believes that if he can help kids and get them on the right track, it’s worth it.