Joel Zendel: A familiar face to many


Photo provided by Joel Zendel.

Zendel as he currently resides in Winston Salem with his wife Jordan and his son Banks.

Charlie Stoter, Features Editor

   When you think of a well-known person, many may think of countless celebrities, and famous people recognized worldwide, but in Winston-Salem, a notable individual is Joel Zendel. He has a smiling face, touching the lives of countless athletes, students, and people in our community. Zendel’s journey amid the pines commences as he takes on a new role beginning to teach the Holocaust and Genocide Studies at RJ Reynolds High School.  

    Zendel is known community-wide for his involvement in children’s sports and help around Forsyth County, but many do not see the impact Zendel has had within the RJR community. While Zendel is beginning his new Social Injustice Class, he has been an Exceptional Children (EC) teacher for many years. 

    Growing up, Zendel was your typical kid who enjoyed exploring outside, playing sports and hanging out with friends. What set him apart from others was his twin brother. 

    “[My childhood] was a lot of fun,” Zendel said. “Since I am an identical twin, it added another source of fun because we could confuse people on who was who. A fun story was one time in 5th grade, my teacher called on me to do my book report, and my brother told the teacher, ‘I will go get him.’” 

    While originally from Potomac, Maryland, Zendel made his way to North Carolina after graduating from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and a master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Texas at Austin.

    “I went to the University of Maryland for undergrad, and I went to Texas for grad school,” Zendel said. “I was looking for jobs in sports and saw that there was a job at the YMCA. The person who was doing the hiring was my former camp counselor at my summer camp. I came to North Carolina, and I stayed.” 

    Many people know what their future holds and what job they are reaching for, but for Zendel, that was not the case. Initially, Zendel thought his future consisted of a career in college athletics. 

    “As a kid, and even in college, I thought I was going to work in college athletics,” Zendel said. “And then, as my career kind of changed, I was looking at what’s going to be the best impact, but also something that would allow some time to relax. And that teaching kind of led me to that.” 

    While Zendel did not always picture himself ending up in the teaching profession, he did spend a lot of time with kids. 

    “I’ve always liked working with kids and helping them achieve something and being able to see them have a goal and then achieve it,” Zendel said. “Then, pretty much my whole career was working with kids as a camp counselor. I worked at the YMCA as a sports director, and then kind of decided I wanted to make more of an impact during the school year, so that kind of led me to the teaching profession.”

    Before becoming a teacher, Zendel worked within many communities of Winston-Salem. He began his career at the William G. White Jr. Family YMCA, where he oversaw the Youth Sports Program. Following this, Zendel was a part of the Forsyth Country Day School staff overseeing After School Enrichment. 

    Zendel entered the RJR community by taking a job as the Assistant Junior Varsity Girls Lacrosse coach. During his time coaching, Zendel impacted the lives of many, including current RJR senior Ellie Choplin.

Zendel at one of his many jobs coaching girl’s lacrosse. (Photo provided by Joel Zendel.)

    “Joel has impacted my performance by always pushing me to give it my all and has taught me how to be a team player with good sportsmanship,” Choplin said. “Which has helped me be able to work with others well.”

    As Zendel embarks on his new journey as a demon, he has big plans for shaping the RJR community. 

    “I want to make sure that we are providing for each student, but also the families,” Zendel said. “If a parent of a family has kids in each type of school, we need to plan out the open houses and the transportation so it’s a little easier for families who might not be able to afford after-school care to get each kid to where they need to go.”

    As a fellow RJR demon and as someone who has known Zendel for almost a decade, I cannot wait to see the extensive impact Zendel continues to have on the rest of the RJR community.