5 Questions With SAE Institute Chicago Instructor Rebecca Gacki


You may or may not know that March is Women’s History Month – a time when we recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of women throughout history. In honor of this occasion, we’re putting the spotlight on some of our very own women instructors and faculty who are not only making a difference with our students, but also inspiring others.

We recently caught up with SAE Institute Chicago Speech Communication instructor, Rebecca Gacki (known by her students as “Mrs. G”), who recently had the exciting opportunity to share her story in a TEDx Talk. Follow along as we discuss her background and career, the advice she has for students looking to follow their dreams, and how she hopes to inspire others to persevere through life’s unexpected turns.

Tell us a little bit about your background and story.

I’m a double Masters prepared ACE Certified Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Project Management Professional. I’m also a former Division I college athlete, personal trainer & tennis club professional with a lifelong commitment to fitness & health.

However, a few months after completing my MA in Communications, life took “an unexpected turn” and I got derailed from my healthy lifestyle. I was in an accident that took place during a triathlon competition. A fellow competitor cut me off during the bike portion of the race. Injuries sustained put me in a coma for six-weeks.

Once my “new norm” settled into place and as someone who is a lifelong learner, I wanted to challenge myself. So, I went on to earn an MBA with a focus on Marketing. However, it wasn’t until I developed the Build UR Best U five-step building block process that I was able to get my fitness & health back on-track. 

In merging the lessons learned after my accident along with my areas of expertise in project management, behavior change and fitness & health, I designed a systematic, data-driven five-step building block process that enabled me to sustain my fitness & health goals. I’ve since completed three marathons, three half marathons, am at a healthy weight, and my blood work levels are all within a healthy range. 

Wanting to share what I created with others was a catalyst for starting my professional speaking and health coaching business, Build UR Best U, LLC.

And so, in addition to being an Adjunct Instructor of Speech Communication at the Chicago campus, I also conduct professional speaking engagements and coach people who were derailed from their healthy lifestyle rebuild a plan that works for them.

Who or what inspired you to work with students?

I have so much to be thankful and grateful for and so just like with my health coaching business in wanting to share my knowledge and experiences with others, I believe in giving back wherever possible. Whether you are a teacher or coach, nothing is more exciting than to see a student or client learn a new concept or reach a goal knowing you played a role in it.

What was it like preparing for the TEDx Talk?

While I was lucky in landing my TEDx Talk in a shorter time frame, it can take up to twelve months to do so. I began writing my Talk, “An Unexpected Turn,” in January. Once it took shape, I kept my eye on local upcoming TEDx events with the hope that my message would match its theme. I am originally from Indiana and having my accident take place there, I happened to notice the TEDx Zionsville event. Since its theme of a “Sense of Place” was a match with my message of, “Have faith in your life’s path because you never know where that ‘unexpected turn’ in your life will lead,” I applied. I am so glad that I did and am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity. When I first began writing my Talk, I often thought that it might not resonate with others considering not everyone competes in triathlons or had the experience of being in a coma. However, my ah-ha moment after the Talk was that everyone has or at least will at some point get derailed from his/her life and that was what resonated with the audience.     

How do you aim to make an impact at SAE Institute Chicago?

Build UR Best U’s motto is “Health choices build a better you with taking it one-day, one-meal and one-workout at-at-time.” I believe this approach works well for most any goal. And so, in teaching my classes, I try to take it one-assignment, one-class and work with each student one-at-a-time.  

What would you say to a student WHO MAY BE on the fence about following their dreams?

I would remind them that we are given one life to live and to have faith in your life’s path. God or whoever your higher power is, is not going to give your life’s purpose to someone else. Follow your passion with integrity and find a way to get paid for it by making a plan, executing that plan, getting involved and participating and then never, never, never give up.   

To watch Mrs. G’s TEDx Talk in entirety, visit the official TEDx youtube channel. For more information about our Chicago campus, visit us online or reach out to us by phone at 312-300-5685.