Steve Zaranek crosses the finish line of his teaching career

Mike Hamilton '22, Web Editor

Steve Zaranek, lifelong teacher and coach is retiring from the classroom after the 2020-2021 school year but will continue coaching girls cross country and track and field.

After beginning his career as a business teacher, he later shifted to teaching physical education and has been doing so for the last 20 years. According to Zaranek, his favorite class to teach was his Adaptive Physical Education, a course where he worked with special needs students to further their physical health and wellness.

“Adaptive PE is the most rewarding,” Zaranek said. “Our special needs kids are the best and so willing to learn and they are so much fun to be around.”

Along with interacting with over 250 students on any given day, Zaraneck said he enjoyed walking through the beautiful hallways of South.

Steve Zaranek standing with his first cross country team at South in his first year teaching and coaching in 1979.  Photo Credit: Steve Zaraneck

After 42 years, Zarenek felt that it was time for a change, thus his retirement from teaching.

“The continuation of coaching will keep me engaged at South for years to come but my wife and I want to explore other avenues,” Zarenek said.

Once Zaranek has retired and has left the halls of South for the final time, he hopes to go visit his grandchildren with his wife and they also plan on traveling across the country and the world as well as other things.

“My wife, Marianne, and I have grandkids in Arizona and North Carolina and we already have trips planned around the US. I’ve been to about 60 countries and I want to explore another 20 or so.” Zaranek said. “ My wife and I both have large families along with our 5 kids with the youngest still in college. We will be very, very busy and all in a great way.”

According to Mira Zaranek, her father wanted every one of his students to know that they could accomplish anything they put their minds to. She said further that he knew how to push kids to their best without forcing them to do anything.

“My best memory of my dad at school is after my relay at the Track and Field State Finals, the last race of my high school career, looking into the stands to see the smile he had on his face,” Zaranek said. “ I could feel the pride he had watching me run and the feeling I had knowing I would never forget what he has taught me.”

Chad Hepner, fellow Physical Education instructor says Zaranek’s retirement will leave a void in their department that many will have to work to fill. Hepner says he most admires the way Zaranek carried himself through the last months of his career.

“While some teachers may want to ‘coast’ as they wind down their last few months of teaching, Zaranek did just the opposite and took on additional responsibilities,” Hepner said. “I had an extended absence after knee surgery and Coach Z volunteered to take over teaching my PE classes which added a big increase to his daily teaching workload and his enthusiasm and willingness to do whatever is best for South students epitomize his career.”

Even though Zaranek will be leaving his career as a teacher at South, he will never forget the time he has spent here. He is especially grateful for his two long-time assistant coaches Leo Lamberti and Sean McNamara.

“I still remember driving to South on my first day in 1979 and walking into the building and I was in awe of everything and I was extremely nervous,” Zaranek said. “I was greeted in my very first class by awesome students who knew it was my first day and they welcomed me with open arms. I intend to leave South, on my final day of teaching, through that same door and I have a feeling a few tears will be flowing.”