Penticton tutor’s positive attitude earns Top 40 Under 40 nomination

Former student-athlete committed to teaching with a positive attitude.

Martina Zamecnik

As an entrepreneur and former student-athlete at a big U.S. university, Martina Zamecnik is not the kind of person who’s adjusting easily to a more sedentary lifestyle while she recovers from hip surgery.

“It’s been quite a transition,” confirmed the 30-year-old owner of 360 Learning Academy, which has branches in Penticton and Summerland.

“Being a type A personality, I’m always doing something, so for me to just sit still and watch a movie or read a book, it’s been a little bit challenging for sure,” she said with a laugh.

Zamecnik is recovering from a procedure earlier this month to repair a torn labrum that likely resulted from her athletic pursuits like running, swimming and adventure racing.

But just two days after leaving hospital, she was back at work tutoring high school students in math and science.

The 360 Learning Academy opened in spring 2012 and just recently expanded to a second location in Summerland. The service has 65 clients and five subcontracted tutors, who work alongside Zamecnik.

“Every couple days we get a call from a new student, so it’s constantly growing,” she said, adding she’d one day like to add two more offices elsewhere in the Okanagan, which welcomed her upon arrival two decades ago.

Her family immigrated to Canada from Slovakia when she was nine, and settled first with her aunt and uncle in Summerland.

“I think my parents just wanted a better life for us,” she said, adding her first weeks in Canada were tough, but she quickly adapted to the culture and learned English.

“Within a few months, I think a child becomes quite fluent if they’re immersed in it,” she said.

Zamecnik, whose parents are both teachers, graduated from Penticton Secondary School in 2001, then attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha on a full scholarship for swimming.

She said student-athletes are treated well there and get to travel, but the lifestyle is tiring.

“I practised five hours a day, and then you have your study hall,” she said.

“That’s pretty much your life.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in 2005, Zamecnik moved back to Penticton to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.

She’d done some tutoring while in university and gave it a try here at the urging of Dave Nackoney, a counsellor at her old high school.

“I started with one student and it just built from there,” she said.

“I was (working) in people’s homes, the library, the school, and then it got to the point where I was getting so many calls I realized there had to be a different way.”

So she and fiancee Lee Agur, whom she’s set to wed in August, bought the building across from Penticton Secondary and launched 360 Learning Academy.

“That gives an opportunity not only to help more students, but I have other tutors who work in this space,” she said, adding  some colleagues are teachers-on-call or retired teachers who just enjoy the work.

Nackoney, who first met Zamecnik when he was her Grade 8 teacher at McNicoll Park Middle School, said his former pupil has excelled in the tutoring business because of her energy and positive attitude.

“She’s really a tireless person,” he said. “Martina has a way of getting people to learn, obviously, but I think one of her biggest strengths is making people feel good about themselves.”

He also noted that some of the kids she has tutored played for the Penticton Vees or the Okanagan Hockey Academy, and she could relate to the pressure they face.

“She was an athlete, too, so when she works with athletes it makes it easy,” Nackoney said.

Zamecnik said her other key to success is working hard to establish good rapport with students and community connections.

“Just being a people person, I think, is huge,” she said.

“People come back if they like you.”

Penticton Top 40 under 40 is presented by the Prospera Credit Union in partnership with the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and JCI Penticton, with support from the White Kennedy LLP Chartered Accountants.

Nominations should be sent to manager@penticton.org with the subject line ‘Top 40 Nomination.’ Please include nominees contact info and a brief reason for nomination.

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