By Anna Ferraro
Kelly Zoellner, principal at South Elementary for the past three years, has several great loves – her students, her school, her family and … waterskiing. To her, it’s more than a weekend hobby.
Growing up in Decatur, she began waterskiing with her dad at age seven. From day one, she loved it. Zoellner shares, “I was fortunate to have some good coaches and some God-given abilities.”
As she grew, so did her abilities, until it became apparent that Zoellner had some serious skill on the water. It wasn’t long until people started to notice. Based on her skills, she got a full ride scholarship to Northeast Louisiana University where she chose a career path in elementary education.
Zoellner says, “I love kids – really, you can’t do this job if you don’t like kids. I love watching kids grow, I love coaching any kind of sports I can. And with getting the summers off, I can focus on my skiing.”
It’s not just her passion, though – it’s a family thing. In addition to skiing with her dad, mom and sister, Zoellner met her husband, Troy, through waterskiing. Together, they’ve begun the process of getting their son, Jaret (7th grade), and daughter, Julia (5th grade), out on the water. Zoellner says, “They’re doing wonderfully with it.”
Zoellner competed at the national level in 2014, and placed well. But this week, she’ll be competing at the international level, saying, “It’s a bucket list type of thing.” Traveling to Spain for the World Senior Ski Championship, Zoellner is one of eight individuals on Team USA. In Spain, September 14-18, she will compete for both team and individual medals.
The only participant from the Midwest, Zoellner shares that, “Jacksonville has been very supportive since I’ve been here … when I got the call that I had made the USA team, I was very proud and excited. Then, they told me the dates of the tournament. I though to myself, ‘There is no way I can get off work, that’s such a crucial time for us.’”
She explained that her supervisors within the school district were “so supportive of me … they’re working very well with me to support the staff here while I’m away at the competition. I couldn’t ask for better support than what I’m getting from my administration.”
So, with the support of her family, her school and her community, Zoellner is off to Europe – one of eight Americans to represent the USA. Best wishes, Kelly!