Meet Zack Verts
Zack Verts was a member of the first graduating class to come out of the Tulsa Welding School -Jacksonville campus back in 2002. Zack has now come full circle as he’s a senior welding instructor at the campus. Born and raised near Kansas City, Missouri, Zack moved to Jacksonville with his wife at age 20.
When did you start your welding career Zack?
I’ve been welding since I was 17 years old, I’m now 35. I started working construction and I worked around welders. They saw that I was interested and started to help me learn the trade. I got a job for the union when I was 18, and I welded for them for 2½ years back in Missouri.
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Why did you decide to go to welding school?
I always knew I needed an education to go with my trade, but growing up as a kid in Missouri it was unrealistic for me to go to Tulsa. It was too far away and I didn’t have the money to move. But when we came to Jacksonville and I saw they were opening a campus, I knew I had to enroll.
Why did you feel you had to enroll?
I knew it would better my life. I could have got a job while at the school, but I wanted to give it my all. The school was open for 10 hours every day, and I went for 10 hours a day. My wife and I had to rough it for a few months, but it paid off. I finished top of my class with a 4.0 and was on top of my game. I did everything you’re supposed to do as a student. That makes it easier for me to push them hard today.
How long have you been teaching at TWS?
I came in 2008. I’ve been here so long that a couple of people I taught years ago are now working as instructors here. I was nervous at first; teaching people was new to me so there was definitely a learning curve, but I really love what I do. It’s very fulfilling to teach someone something they don’t know, then watch them do it well and go out and provide for their families. That’s if they treat the program right, and get out of it what they’re supposed to.
As a boy, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a professional baseball player. My younger brother got scouted by the minors, he actually went to college, and got a full ride. I felt I was better than he was but I didn’t stick it out for the long haul like I should have. I guess I was more of a realist; I knew I’d have to work for a living.
Tell me something that most people don’t know about you?
Three quarters of my body is tattooed. It’s been a 12 year project. If you see me in work clothes, long sleeves and jeans, you’d never know. I’ve entered contests and won awards for them. We have half of my left arm to work on next. I must have an addiction to pain, as if welding wasn’t enough!
What’s your favorite music, book and movie.
I’m not into reading, but I pretty much like all kinds of music from country to rap. If I had to pick one artist I’d probably go with Jim Morrison of The Doors, or maybe Jimi Hendrix – that genre. I like funny old movies; my favorite is American Graffiti but it’s hard to keep me sat still for that length of time!
If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would say my great grandmother Katherine. She was a very wise woman. She lived to be 95 years old, and it seemed like she lived a lot of life. When I was growing up she had a lot of good information.
Tell us a little about your family.
My wife Wendy and I have been married for 13 years, we’ve been together for 18 years. We said that we’d wait until we were 30 to have kids, and we just made it. Our daughter Marleigh is six years old.
If you weren’t a teacher and money was no object, what would you do?
I’d travel. I’d like to see a lot of historical sites, and visit with people of different cultures. I’d like to learn more about different cultures. I think I’d start in Rome, Italy; my wife and I really want to go there.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to new students who are just starting out?
Be prepared, and commit to learning this trade. Attendance is key at our school, so be there every day and do your job, which is to learn. You’ll pick it up repetitiously if you put the work in and make these welds time and time again. Listen to what the instructors tell you, then go back to your booth and utilize that information.
Explain more about what you mean by being prepared?
It’s a hot, dirty job. There’s nothing forgiving about it. It’s a real industrial job, it’s not like playing a video game. We have girls on the program, and they do a really good job, but if you’ll pardon the expression this is manly work. It’s a trade, it pays the bills, and it pays really well the higher your skill level is. That’s what it really comes down to, and that’s what you have to be prepared for.
What’s your favorite part of the welding industry?
I’ve worked in fabrication shops, controlled environments where we had to build and weld from blueprints. It was like being your own boss to a certain extent; you have a job to do and you have to make it happen. I got a lot out of that aspect. So you have to be a self-starter, be independent, and have a good work ethic. And that’s true across the industry, not just in fabrication shops.
There’s also a lot of pride in this business. Every weld has a signature; when you get done and look at what you’ve built, there has to be a sense of pride. Any good welder will always try to outdo himself /herself with every weld. You should be constantly pushing yourself to be the best. If you shoot for perfection, you’re probably going to be alright.
What’s your favorite tool?
I like TIG welding, so I’d have to go with my TIG rig.
If you were to tell one person “Thank You” for helping you become the person you are today, who would it be and what did they do?
I would say my dad, Schanz Verts, for teaching me a great work ethic and not to complain! He taught me to earn my day’s pay if you will. I watched him work 12-14 hour days, and his hard work paid off. There’s a sign on the wall at work that reads “You can’t have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic.” That’s so true. If you don’t give something your all, you’re not going to get anything out of it.
You get an unexpected afternoon to yourself, what would you do with that time?
I’d probably mix up a drink and get in my pool! Either that or I’d go in my garage and work on my hot-rod. But if it’s hot and I’ve got some free time, I think the pool would win.
What super power would you like to have?
Oh man… I don’t know! If it tied into welding, I’d like to have X-ray vision…but that might put me in a bad light! How about this…it would help me with my teaching. I’d like to know what people are thinking, I’d like to read people’s thoughts. When I’m teaching I try to read people and their facial expressions to see if they’re getting what I’m telling them. But it’s very hard with students who don’t talk much, so being able to read their mind would definitely help.
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