Fremd psychology teacher shares passion for learning with students
Preparing young people for their futures and sharing part of that road with them is a dream come true for Fremd High School psychology teacher Jason Dvorak.
That passion for guiding students, he says, is what makes someone a teacher in their heart rather than simply through their certification and employment.
"I think we all get into this because we're passionate," Dvorak said. "The great thing about teaching is so much of your personality comes out."
Dvorak, 32, always knew he wanted a job that involved a lot of interaction. His love for basketball while attending Westmont High School made him think that might be where his future lay. But a serious football injury during his senior year made coaching the most realistic way to stay in the basketball world.
And so he did.
Despite discovering a passion for psychology after taking his first class for it in college, he first pursued his love for basketball, spending a year as assistant men's basketball coach at North Dakota State College of Science.
While that year didn't disappoint, Dvorak knew the job's all-consuming lifestyle wasn't compatible with the future he was planning with his fiancee.
"I tried to find any way I could to find a teaching job," he said of his solution.
And for the past nine years, he's been sharing his love for psychology with students.
"This is one of our most popular electives," said Dvorak, who teaches both regular and Advanced Placement psychology courses. "I think the content is something kids can connect with. ... I hope that it teaches them empathy."
AP Psychology often is used as an introduction to AP classes for students that haven't previously taken one. The main difference from the other psychology classes is the pace and the depth, Dvorak said, with the content dictated by the College Board.
Conducting classes entirely remotely this year has required new innovations in connecting with students and getting the content across.
"This is the most time I've spent just getting ready for the next day," he said.
But he sees problem-solving and flexibility as the skills both students and teachers are building up during the pandemic, despite the obvious downsides that come from the lack of regular classroom interaction.
And Dvorak has taken advantage of whatever opportunities it's offered. After students remotely watched a video on how easily the brain can be distracted from noticing changes in its environment by focusing on other details, he tested them on how long it took to notice he'd put on a different shirt.
Two students who took Dvorak's AP class last year attested to the value of his approach to teaching.
"What makes Mr. Dvorak distinct as a teacher is his avidness as a person, and as an educator as well," senior Miles Toriani said. "Mr. Dvorak is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and has a way of teaching that doesn't make school feel like a burden. Mr. Dvorak genuinely has a deep passion and appreciation for each and every one of his students, which shows, and can be felt by anyone that has had or currently has him as a teacher."
Fellow senior Gianna Nuccio agreed.
"In addition to preparing us to be more than ready for the AP test and teaching us about psychology, Mr. Dvorak fostered a learning environment that united our class as a team," she said.
"Our class was lively while engaging with the curriculum, eager to learn and free of judgment. Mr. Dvorak created a class that I could walk into with a smile everyday, knowing my participation, along with my peers', was valued."
Fremd High School Principal Kurt Tenopir said Dvorak's value to the school and its students goes beyond the classroom.
"Students love his class, both because of his expertise with the content area and because of his ability to create strong relationships with his students," Tenopir said.
"Jason has always tried to take an active role in the school. Besides teaching, he coaches boys basketball, and he has served as the sponsor for United Clubs of Fremd, the school's 'pep club.'"
Dvorak also has been active leading professional development efforts for the rest of the staff, including becoming a key player in teaching others how to engage students through remote learning.
"Jason is as involved as he is because he cares deeply about his students, his colleagues, and his school," Tenopir said. "It seems like he has a tireless approach to working at FHS, as he will do just about anything that will help others."
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Jason Dvorak, curriculum vitae
• William Fremd High School, 2012-present: Teacher of AP Psychology, Psychology 1 & 2, U.S. History; freshman boys basketball coach, announcer.
• Zion-Benton High School, 2011-12.
• North Dakota State College of Science, 2010-11: NJCAA Assistant Men's Basketball Coach, sports information director.
• Governors State University, 2014-16: master of arts, Psychology.
• Northern Illinois University, 2006-10: Bachelor of Arts, Psychology; history minor; teacher certification.
Wife, Meghan Dvorak, married 2011; children Lucas, 4, Jake, 3, & Allie, 1