This feature first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
Ordinarily, Certification Magazine educator profiles are about hard working IT instructors doing all they can to teach students the intricacies of computers and other digital devices. Those middle school, high school, and college educators encourage and help their students to obtain important industry certifications that open doors to better and higher-paying employment.
There is another group of professionals toiling in quiet obscurity to ensure that university and college professors have the tech support needed to better teach their students. Every institution of higher education has them and they are crucial to keeping professors abreast of new happenings in technology. They are teachers in the sense of helping to educate and inform end users.
One of these unsung heroes is Keenan Adcock, a cookie-baking, mountain hiking, pickleball playing, Disney-loving, soccer referee whose full-time job is instructional training at Utah Valley University (UVU) in Orem, Utah.
Instructional trainers are an important part of the university's "Office of Teaching and Learning" (OTL). Their job never ends as they train professors, staff, grad students, and the occasional student how to get the most out of the school's learning management system (LMS).
"Technology is constantly changing," Adcock said, "and professors and staff need to keep up. If they don't know how to use the school's programs, teaching isn't going to be as effective as it could be."
Another reason instructional trainers have to stay on the cutting edge is because UVU offers a litany of programs and tools for its employees and student body. Among them are a livestream teaching academy, an online teaching academy, the Canvas LMS, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Bookings — and Adcock is a master of them all.
Adcock is in his third year with the OTL. He loves his job and the people with whom he works. "These are some of the most wonderful people I've ever known. It's a blessing to work with them," he said.
As an instructional trainer, a large slice of his work is one-on-one, something he especially enjoys. "People call us to schedule a training session or come into the center and we give them our personal attention," said Adcock. "Most of our participants are UVU faculty who are experts at their content, and just need some training on the Canvas LMS or third-party affiliated tools."
He also has the opportunity to hold workshops for larger groups. One of his favorites is focused on the Japanese word "ikigai" which refers to a passion that gives value and joy to an individual's life. "It was so fun because we were trying to help the attendees discover how to live a long and happy life, their 'sweet spot,' by having them ask themselves four questions:
"What do I love to do? Is it something the world needs? Can I get paid for it? What am I good at?"
While participants enjoyed the workshop and hopefully left with a determination to find their ikigai, the experience caused Adcock to do a little soul searching himself. "I realized that I'm still not sure what my ikigai is yet," he admitted. "I love baking and sharing food with people and making their day, but I don't know if I could make a profession of it."
Contrary to popular belief, multitalented people often struggle to discover what it is they want to do most in life. It's even more challenging when one has difficulty focusing, which is Adcock's lifelong burden — he suffers from adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
As a boy, he was a handful and more. "I could never sit still, I was always getting in trouble, touching things, breaking things, asking tons of questions, and never sitting down for long," he recalled. "My behavior got so bad that my mother couldn't handle me. So, she threatened my older brother to take care of me or, she'd take care of him!"
It was while living in Hawaii and playing high school sports that Adcock finally began to get control of his disability. "Sports helped me to exercise and stay in shape, which helped with my lack of focus and my extreme amount of energy," he stressed. "They also helped me focus on my schoolwork because I knew that in order for me to participate in sports I had to have a certain GPA."
As a high schooler, Adcock was a member of the football team for two years and ran track all four years, eventually becoming team captain in his senior year. "Being captain helped me reach out to others, to set an example of hard work and proper behavior and to make sure that we functioned and geeked together as a team," he said.
A somber experience occurred for Adcock when he played as a running back on the school's football team. They had finished the season undefeated and just before the divisional championship their head coach suffered a fatal heart attack.
While shocking, the loss of their leader served to further unify the players and increased their determination to win. "We were already a good team," said Adcock, "but his death inspired us even more and we went on to win the state championship."
An unusual introduction to teaching
High school had indeed been a positive time for Adcock, helping him grow up and learn to better control his behavior. He was soon to experience much greater level of personal growth and development, however, as well as have his first real experience with teaching.
After a year in college, at age 19, Adcock was called to serve a two-year ecclesiastical mission in the Netherlands. As a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Adcock would work rigorous 12-hour days, seven days a week, sharing his beliefs with strangers. To make it even more challenging, he had to learn to speak Dutch. His service with the Dutch people would be a watershed experience for him.
"I loved being on my mission, it helped me to focus even more as I learned to master the language, to embrace and implement habits that I still follow today," shared Adcock. "The habits of waking up and going to bed at a certain time, studying a new language, culture and religious content daily, eating regular nutritious meals, while living in a culture that expected you to always be on time. "It wasn't easy, but it was certainly worth it."
The Dutch have a well-earned reputation for being stern, precise, and demanding of respect toward their culture and country, and Adcock's daily interactions with them taught him essential lessons about communicating with others that continue to be of great benefit to him.
"Whether working with my companions, investigators, or members of our church, I learned to express my feelings and thoughts more clearly, openly, and kindly," he said. (A "companion" is a missionary partner, whereas an "investigator" is someone interested in learning more.)
Discussing his beliefs in churches, homes, and at times in the street helped Adcock to realize that he liked teaching and that he had a talent for it.
When his two years were up, he returned to "civilian life," finished several college degrees, found a wife, and started a family. Although divorced, Adcock continues to have close relationships with his son and two daughters, who are now adults.
Along the way he also completed a CompTIA technical trainer certification and began his career. "In 1994 I became a Dutch and English editor for WordPerfect and from there just continued training," said Adcock. "And now I'm here at UVU and having a great time."
So how does an instructional trainer with adult ADHD relax? If you're Adcock, you just keep moving. A fitness fanatic, he lifts weights and does calisthenics. He regularly referees soccer games for a couple of local leagues — often running five miles or more in an evening and, more than 40 miles a week. When he is not maintaining the peace on the pitch, he can often be found dominating opponents on the local pickleball courts.
For a 58-year-old, Adcock is impressively fit — his resting heart rate is a mere 43 beats per minute and he will occasionally push himself to do unusual and demanding feats like thousands of pushups and burpees in a week.
He also enjoys hiking and takes every opportunity he can to conquer one of Utah's many mountains. He has twice summitted the renowned and perilous Angels Landing in Zion National Park, where the final approach to the summit, with chains bolted into the sandstone to assist hikers, is simultaneously breathtaking, exhilarating, and dangerous.
His greatest hiking feat occurred just after having open heart surgery. In May 2016 he had an operation to fix his aortic regurgitation — a heart valve that isn't closing properly. People suffering from that malady often find walking to the bathroom extremely difficult, and Adcock was no exception. Fortunately, the next month, a skilled surgeon fashioned a replacement valve before the worst happened.
As part of his rehab, Adcock began hiking with his daughter. At first it was just some light walking; until he heard of the National Park Service's centennial celebration and his competitive nature took over. Wanting to do something big, Adcock took up a local challenge to hike the cliff-hugging trail to Timpanogos Cave 100 times between May and September. "Once I realized I'd get a jacket for doing it, I was in!" he said.
The Timpanogos Cave trail is strenuous. It's almost three miles round trip and rises more than 1,100 feet in just over a mile. His first attempt took 90 minutes and he was exhausted. But he kept at it, getting stronger and faster.
Adcock named his adventure, "hiker-cising" and he was doing great, until his tenth ascent when he began experiencing severe chest pains. An examination by the doctor revealed he had two liters of pleural fluid on his lungs — healthy individuals have only one tablespoon of pleural fluid.
One more surgery, followed by a week's rest and Adcock was back hiking the trail. "I took days off from work to get in hikes and did several climbs each weekend," he explained. However, with time running out to accomplish his goal, Adcock had to do something extreme.
"Towards the end of August, I had to hike the trail five times in one day. It was hard, but I wanted that jacket! And by that time, I could hike the trail in just 30 minutes," he said.
Disneyland is another frequent destination for Adcock. He took his kids there when they were growing up and continues going with them now that they are adults. "I've lost count of how many times I've been there," he said. "It's a fun place to go."
There are indeed many facets of Keenan Adcock, but the one he is perhaps most well-known for is manifest in the kitchen, where he whips up tasty artisan breads, instant-pot yogurts, and split pea soup. Every item he cooks or bakes is delicious, but his pièce de résistance is his version of the Crumbl cookie chain's signature chocolate chip cookie.
Each summer his neighborhood holds Sunday cookie walks as a way for neighbors to get to know one another, and Adcock's place is always a popular destination. His best and most popular cookie is the frosted snickerdoodle. Full disclosure: I myself have eaten one (or several) of Adcock's snickerdoodles and will vouch for their addictive quality.
"I enjoy cooking. It's something I've been learning on my own since the sixth grade," he said. "The first thing I tried to bake was a pound cake and I didn't think I needed to follow directions. I used too much water, it took forever to bake and it turned out to be a real 'pound' cake."
A Christian life
One inexplicable aspect of Adcock's life is how a guy with so full a schedule manages to help so many people. Someone moving? Adcock is there. Someone needs to be cheered up? Adcock is there. Someone isn't feeling well? His cookies will almost magically appear.
It is an understatement to call him "active" in his church. He rarely misses a scheduled service and somehow manages to volunteer for every party, service project, and extra duty that arises — without being asked. If a volunteer sheet gets passed around, Adcock's name is almost always at the top.
His is a true "island friendliness." He is always greeting and reaching out to others, making them feel comfortable. "That's my dad," said son Kamiko. "He constantly tries to sit next to the person sitting alone and always volunteers to do the things others don't want to do. He's a great dad and an all-round great guy!"
Dave Allen, a valued friend for more than 35 years, describes Adcock as "a humble servant of the Lord whose joy is serving others. His quiet works are the badge of his accomplishments."
Adcock is a child of many cultures, of Hawaiian, Filipino, Chinese, Tahitian, and African descent. He is proud of all of them, but it's his Hawaiian nature that irrepressibly comes through in every aspect of his life and work.
His mission in life is also quintessentially from the islands. "The word 'aloha' means to bring life, goodness, and compassion to the world That's what I, Keenan Adcock, try to do every day — bring a bit of aloha to everyone I meet."