I have always hated school, it’s just an environment that never worked for me. So when my junior year started, the so called, “most important year of school”, I just couldn’t care less other than getting it over with as soon as possible.
I went on to the first day of school, speaking as little as possible and sitting in the back of class incognito until the bell rang and I could go home. It went on like this most days until I got to AP Statistics where I met one of the most interesting teachers I have ever had: Mr. Olenchek.
Olenchek was one of the goofiest, most animated, and intelligent people I have ever met. He always kept class interesting by throwing in jokes so bad they were funny and interesting stories from years of teaching, like the time he was able to steal a pair of symbols from the band room to use for a comedic bit.
For all of first semester, I enjoyed the class and it was one of the few moments in my day I didn’t dread. Throughout this first semester I also learned just how overqualified Olenchek was for a high school teacher. It’s a remarkable thing to me that I got a teacher that was so well versed. I ended up getting an A in his class first semester since I actually enjoyed going to class and participating.
The second semester wasn’t great for me. I just became burnt out of school and didn’t feel motivated; I wanted to go back to bed and do nothing all day. Because of this my grades started slipping; I wasn’t doing any work, and for the first time in my life, my test scores started slipping as well. I remember dreading going to school even more than usual because it all felt pointless. Since I am usually the quiet kid though, nobody batted an eye because it just seemed like the usual me.
That was, except for Olenchek. He realized I wasn’t doing well and he was the only one of my teachers to approach me after class and make sure I was doing fine. He knew something was wrong and made sure I knew what to do. He seemed to be the only teacher that understood my difficulty not with work or rigor, but with a struggle to care. And most of all he was calm and reserved, not angry and frustrated like most teachers when work isn’t done. Even if he did this to all his students that were struggling it still means the world he would check up on people he knew could do it. It was right after that moment when I started to improve again. Going back from D’s and C’s on tests back to A’s. I don’t know why it did but that short meeting caused me to care just a little bit for my academics.
I’ve never had a teacher as unique, as creative, or as knowledgeable as Mr. Olenchek and I’m thankful for having him as a teacher as he taught me how to be a better student and gave me a reason to do well in a class that I haven’t ever had.
remember sitting down at Arrowhead High School on the first day of school in AP Statistics with regret. Why did I take this class? I thought. It’s going to be so boring! But luckily the fate of the year altered when Mr. Olenchek cracked his first jokes. Immediately I thought, maybe this year won’t be as mundane as I thought.
Mr. Olenchek is remarkably entertaining. He is quick-witted and his jokes deserve their own category. One day I walked into statistics, thinking my day wouldn’t get any better. Mr. Olenchek started teaching and put an equation that contained the term x2p2 on the board. When he read this, he stopped and said, “wait a minute, I’m having flashbacks, isn’t this that character that goes ‘beep-boop’ and saves the day in the space movie?” The situation and timing were perfect and my class and I chuckled.
But Mr. Olenchek is amusing in other ways. Every time he passes out paper, he drops them like a parachute (from high up onto your desk), or like a ‘magic carpet’ (glides the paper onto your desk). Mr. Olenchek’s humor and personality help keep the class interesting and engaging, which isn’t an effortless achievement, especially for a class like AP Statistics.
While keeping a class engaging and fun is arduous and important, it is arguably more important to make sure students understand the topics. Mr. Olenchek makes sure the concepts are understood. He always asks, “Are we getting this?” or, “We should be liking this” when talking about a topic.
Some topics in the class are important for the rest of the class and for real-world applications; one of these topics is sampling distributions. Sampling distributions are not an easy topic to understand, but regardless Mr. Olenchek makes sure every student for every year he has taught understands them before completing the class.
Mr. Olenchek gives analogies to the real-world so I never wonder, when will we ever use this? His connections with people who use statistics in their lives provide a great idea of the applications of the material. He also pushes us to be our best and makes sure that we answer questions in the most specific ways possible to prepare us for not only the AP test but the real world.
Now I realize AP Stats isn’t as mundane as I thought it was going to be. Being a good teacher is hard, but being a teacher who can juggle skills and abilities is even harder. Regardless, Mr. Olenchek is able to balance an entertaining side along with a professional side.
Not enough teachers have made me passionate about something that I previously thought I would never be enthusiastic about. Mr. Olenchek’s powerful gift to guide, teach, and instruct, has done the unlikely and has made my year better along with growing my passion for statistics and I could not be more thankful.
To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.