INFLUENCER OF THE WEEK: Fred Zanegood, Gotha Middle School

Mr. Zanegood is the attendance clerk at Gotha Middle School and the first point of contact for parents.

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Fred Zanegood is the attendance and records clerk and is the first point of contact at Gotha Middle School. “He provides day-to-day support to students, families and staff that makes most of our days run smoother,” Principal Monica Emery said. “He goes above and beyond to provide excellent customer service to everyone who enters the front office. We truly appreciate the positivity that Mr. Zanegood exudes. He is a true positive role model for all staff, students, families and visitors.”

In addition to attendance, he works at the school’s front desk, greeting visitors, answering phones, making PA announcements, assisting with enrollments, programming the bells and class transition music, updating the marquee, organizing materials for substitutes, and more. He also maintains the school’s website. He was  named Support Person of the Year in 2016. 

What brought you to your school?

I had worked previously for Florida Virtual School as a student placement specialist and enjoyed helping students and parents “find their way,” so to speak, navigating the perceived vagaries of the enrollment process, learning environment, expectations, etc. So, when the opening at Gotha Middle School came up, I thought perhaps I could offer similar assistance in a new role.

What do you love most about your school?

Though it sounds cliché, without a doubt, our team (administrators, teachers, staff). Our support for each other is unprecedented. Every individual is committed to doing whatever it takes to provide the best for our students, school, staff and community.

What is your motivation?

I am motivated by those with unimaginable struggles. By their perseverance I am reminded daily to do better, be grateful and take nothing for granted.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is the knowledge that perhaps I have made some difference in the well-being of another, however small that may be.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I like to cycle with a cycling group. These fellow cyclists have become my friends and family. When we’re riding together, all seems right with the world for just a few hours.

Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?

My favorite teacher in school was Doug Burris. In addition to chorus and guitar, he taught a class called Rock Ensemble, which I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Mr. Burris had Multiple Sclerosis and spent the better part of his 40-year teaching career confined to a wheelchair. But his spirit was unwavering, and his uncompromising dedication was an inspiration to the myriad students lucky enough to have been taught by him. Mr. Burris has since passed, but his legacy lives on in the program he created and the students who still honor his life and memory annually.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

When I was a child, I wanted to be an airline pilot. The ability to fly machines of the air that defied gravity made the sheer stature of these men and women seem larger than life — almost as if they shared some secret mechanism, akin to the magician’s code, to coax the great beasts aloft.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?

My favorite children’s book is “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This book just seems to function on so many levels with a conveyance of life’s intricacies like no other.

What are your hobbies?

I like cycling, reading, flying and playing drums.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

As a pilot, my initial thought would have to be the ability to fly. Watching birds seemingly effortlessly staying aloft as they ride thermals is magical. But I’ll have to go with the ability to heal. I do believe that “whatever makes you weak also makes you strong” and experiencing the bad helps you appreciate the good, but there seems to be so much needless suffering in the world. The power to alleviate some of this would be amazing.

If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

First and foremost, would be The Beatles — obviously. No explanation necessary. The next two are infinitely more difficult. So much great music. My dad used to take me to the planetarium regularly when I was a young boy, and I was introduced to what would later be termed “New Age” or “Ambient” music. I still refer to it as Planetarium Music and simply could not live without it. There are many great artists in this genre, but Kitaro has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. It’s going to be hard to leave out the masters of classical, but my third choice will have to be Rush. As a drummer and someone enamored with lyrical depth, there has not been a greater influence.

What was your go-to lunch as an elementary student? Any favorite snacks or special treats you remember?

Probably bologna and mustard on white bread. I was born in New York but left when I was 5 to move to Florida. However, I do remember chocolate Italian ices being my favorite treat while I was in the Empire State. I used to get it from an ice cream truck that came to our building every afternoon. The memory is indelible.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

 I guess it would have to be Christmas. I just love all the lights!

Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch?

My best friend in my younger years was Mike Scheib. We simply shared a passion for anything having to do with planes and aviation. And yes, we are still in touch. He became an aeronautical engineer and now works for NASA.

What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?

In middle school I started playing drums and became fascinated with radio in its many forms (CB, ham, talk radio, etc.) I worked in a radio station when I was just 13 and became one of the youngest persons in the state, at that time, to obtain an FCC Radiotelephone License. My love of drums, however, took over my life and hasn’t let go since.


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