Once a third-grade student himself, beginning to learn Spanish within his elementary school’s curriculum, Spanish and General Biology Major Zachary Zott now teaches Spanish to local third- and fourth-grade students through the U-M School of Education’s Ann Arbor Languages Partnership program (A2LP).
“I guess it has come full circle,” Zott remarked. “I am teaching them the same alphabet song I learned 14-15 years ago. It is amazing to think I was in their shoes at one point.”
Zott, an LSA senior, has studied Spanish nearly continuously since his elementary school days. Another lifelong interest he has been pursuing is the sport of baseball, which he began playing at age six. “In terms of sports, baseball was my first love,” he noted.
Zott, who played left field for U-M’s baseball team during his freshman through junior years, emphasized the significant role that experience has played in his life. “Playing the sport here introduced me to people I’d never have met, places I’d never have gone,” he shared. “It was an incredible opportunity to play at that level.”
This year, with more flexibility in his schedule, Zott has sought out opportunities to use his Spanish skills to help others. In addition to working with the A2LP program, he volunteers with Proyecto Avance: Latino Mentoring Association (PALMA). Through PALMA, Zott tutors a local middle-school student in a variety of academic subjects. “I get to give back to the community,” Zott noted. “It is nice to be able to help and see improvement. That is really rewarding.”
A pre-med student, Zott is planning to join his interests in medicine, athletics, and Spanish in his future career. “The dream is to become an orthopedic surgeon. I want to focus on the athletic side, as I have that background,” he said.
Zott said he was inspired by his mother, a neonatal intensive-care unit nurse, to pursue a career in medicine. He currently job-shadows an orthopedic surgeon who works in the area of sports medicine, and he said this experience has affirmed his career decision.
He anticipates his background in Spanish to be extremely valuable when working with patients in the future. “By being able to speak the language, the quality of care you’re able to provide to a patient can only increase,” Zott remarked. In addition, he hopes to attend medical school in an area with a large Spanish-speaking population.
He plans to spend one year between graduating from U-M and attending medical school living and working abroad. He has applied to the Fulbright program to teach English in Spain in a school or business setting. “I’m hoping that’s how I get to spend my year off,” he said.
Zott said he would encourage students considering majoring or minoring in Spanish to do so. “I think learning a language is really rewarding,” he remarked. “I couldn’t be happier with my decision to delve into the Spanish world. I love it. It has taken my view on everything and just widened it.”