Zack Leathers has been a member of the Oakcrest High School staff for only five years, but in that time, he's been busy.
In addition to teaching social studies in a variety of levels, Leathers founded the school's lacrosse program, is an assistant coach with the wrestling and football teams and is an adviser for the school's Forensics Club.
For all he does, Leathers will be honored as Oakcrest's 2013 Teacher of the Year, a title principal Tony Mongelluzzo said is well-deserved.
"He has chosen in the five years he's been here to be that kind of educator," Mongelluzzo said. "He's got a bright future ahead of him."
Leathers grew up outside West Chester, Pa., and attended Shippensburg University, where he initially had trouble deciding what to do with his life. The son of two teachers, Leathers declared an elementary education major before switching to science.
It was his sophomore year, Leathers said, that his roommate suggested he give teaching high school a try.
"(My roommates and I) were really tight, all wrestlers, and my one very close roommate was also a teacher, he was going to be a teacher, and he kind of turned me onto it," Leathers said. "I always have had a passion for history, and this was kind of a natural move for me."
Establishing deep, lasting relationships with his students is an important part of the job for Leathers, who cites his high school wrestling coach and history teacher as a teaching role model.
Few students know Leathers as well as Billy Smith, who had him for freshman world history and has wrestled and played lacrosse while at Oakcrest. It's Leathers' positive attitude, Smith said, that sets him apart from the rest .
"He's a fun-loving guy, as soon as you walk in class, he's happy, he's in a good mood, trying to make everyone else in a good mood," Smith said. "On the lacrosse field, he loves to play the game, but when it comes down, when he needs to be serious, he's a great coach."
One of the greatest moments of Leathers young career, he said, came last year when the parents of a senior he had coached and taught approached him at graduation to say their son was going to college to pursue a career in teaching and coaching.
Leathers said being named Teacher of the Year is a great honor, and one he achieved not on his own, but through the help of his students and peers. And while he said the moniker is a fine accolade, it's no reason to rest on his laurels, but a reminder he's lucky to have a job he loves.
"In the end, that's what it's about, and I'm really blessed to have such a great group of kids and staff around me to be able to do that, and (Teacher of the Year) wasn't something that I thought I would be," Leathers said. "I obviously wanted to be good at it, but it's been a process, and I'm working just as anyone else does."
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