A worn old baseball soon will grace the polished desk of Rivermont Collegiate’s newest headmaster.
For Todd Zachary, unpacking the memento will signify he’s truly, officially moved in to the longstanding Bettendorf private school, located in the former home of Joseph Bettendorf.
“I’m a big sports nut, and when I was a little kid, probably 4 or 5, my dad took me to an L.A. Dodgers game,” Zachary said, eyes alight with the memory. “We caught the foul ball, so that ball sort of goes with me wherever I go.”
That foul ball has truly flown all over the world. After serving more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, Zachary has moved 19 different times, living in places such as Alaska, Texas, North Dakota, Rhode Island and London.
This will be Zachary’s first time living in Iowa, but he said so far, he’s loved every minute of it.
“To be perfectly honest, I’m fitting right in to the community,” he said. “Everyone’s been hospitable and welcoming. The Quad-Cities is really a wonderful place — I can see the attraction of raising a family here.”
While Zachary says the transition has been smooth for him, his own family won’t be joining him in the Quad-Cities for another year.
“I made a promise to my daughter when I left the active service that she would only go to one high school,” said Zachary, who was a senior aerospace science instructor in Philadelphia for the past three years. “So my wife is staying with my daughter, who’s a rising senior, so she can finish out her last year there.”
The Air Force has been a large part of Zachary’s life and it's even brought him a few close encounters with death. Back in 1989 during a night training mission in Montana, Zachary said he got quite a surprise after his plane went over a mountain ridge.
“All of a sudden, it just dropped — like someone pulled the air out from underneath us — and I can remember, as the altimeter’s starting to spin down and the ground was getting real close real quick, I remember just reaching for the ejection handle,” he said, motioning with his hands. “As soon I grabbed onto it, we started to generate lift again.”
Though the Air Force has brought him both excitement and opportunity, Zachary said the shift from the cockpit to the school room was quite smooth.
“I was always torn between being an educator and loving airplanes,” he said. “For me it was a natural transition: I started off flying B-52s and later became a flight instructor, teaching both navigators and naval flight officers. It’s a natural sort of link that’s not uncommon with aviation folks: At some point you transition from being an experienced crew member to teaching others.”
Zachary said this will be his fourth time as a school headmaster and that he has plans for Rivermont Collegiate. Classes start Thursday.
"I’m looking forward to establishing Rivermont in the community so people know what we have to offer, and so we’re not just that school on the hill that’s been there forever," he said. "We're a center for learning that’s innovative, creative and globally focused. We prepare our students not just to succeed as an undergraduate but to excel as a graduate."
In addition to enhancing the STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) program and collaborating with area colleges, Zachary plans to introduce Singapore math into the curriculum.
“It’s a different way to teach math,” he said. “Instead of crunching numbers, it’s very visual and hands-on. Our teachers are excited about teaching it: It looks like a great program, and I'm excited to see it work.”
So, with plans to enhance school curriculum and enrich the community, Zachary hopes to help take Rivermont out of the park, just like that ball he’s helped to travel the world.
(See original story on the Bettendorf News website).