On a leisurely weekend, Nada Meck might be spotted frolicking barefoot on the sands of a Santa Cruz beach while inhaling the fresh ocean breeze. The love of water comes naturally to Meck, a health and fitness instructor at Santa Clara Adult Education. She teaches mostly aquatic classes at the adult school and the Santa Clara Senior Center. Meck is known for her warm and engaging manner with her students, many of whom are senior citizens. Unsurprising to those who know her, Meck was the recipient of this year’s Teacher of the Year award through CCAE’s (California Council for Adult Education) regional chapter. Meck was recognized in May at an awards ceremony at China Stix Restaurant.
“I started at the adult school as a lifeguard in 1993; the senior center didn’t exist yet,” Meck says. “I’ve been teaching with Santa Clara Adult Education for 21 years. Last year, I received an award for 20 years of service.”
Stephanie Pestarino, also a health and fitness instructor with Santa Clara Adult Education, considers Meck an inspiration.
“When I started working in adult education, Nada was already teaching in the water,” Pestarino says. “She pays attention to each and every student. She also does ongoing education by going to workshops and getting certifications so she can give the best advice and recommendations to her students while they’re exercising.”
Meck’s experience working in De Anza College’s adaptive P.E. program sparked her interest in pursuing a career where she could work with seniors in physical education.
“I was a student at De Anza College, where there was a large adaptive P.E. program for disabled people,” Meck says. “I was a teacher’s aide. They had aquatics in the program. Most of the students were older. This inspired me to want to work in the aging and fitness world. Aquatics exercise was a fairly new concept back then during the early 1990s. That experience left an impact on me.”
When Meck was studying Sociology at Chico State University, she worked as a paid student intern in a cardiac rehabilitation program where she also interacted regularly with senior citizens. Meck went on to earn a master’s degree in Gerontology at San Jose State University. One of her graduate research projects detailed the benefits women with arthritis gain from doing aquatics exercise.
Outside of Santa Clara Adult Education, Meck lives a rich life filled with friends, family and food.
“I spend a lot of my free time having coffee with people, hiking and visiting with friends,” Meck says. “I also love eating. Right now, I’m gardening tomatoes, basil and zucchini. I’m close to my three sisters and my parents. We all live near each other. I’m married to a swim coach at the Santa Clara Swim Club and my three daughters are swimmers.”