Science Teacher Tom Draski retired earlier in June. The biology fanatic, tennis coach and longtime Catholic Leaguer has spent the last 21 years of his career in education at Fenwick.
What is your educational background?
TD: I have a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences [from Southern Illinois University] and a master of science degree in biology [from Chicago State University].
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
TD: I have always been a teacher and coach. I began my teaching/coaching career at St. Laurence H.S. where I taught biology and human anatomy/physiology. I started as the frosh/soph boys’ tennis coach and six years later became the varsity boys’ tennis coach. I came to Fenwick in 1998 where I have taught amazing students in biology and human anatomy/physiology. I have had the pleasure to coach both the boys and girls’ frosh/soph tennis teams. I was the Varsity Scholastic Bowl coach at Fenwick from 1999 to 2011. I have coordinated the Fenwick Quetico trip and the Fenwick Willis Tower stair walk fundraiser.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
TD: I tend to do more reading in the summer. The books I have read in the last few summers that I have enjoyed have been The Devil in the White City, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Shack, Mrs. Magrady’s book Lines and The Alchemist.
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
TD: I love to do things outside. I enjoy gardening, camping, visiting state and national parks, and playing tennis. I also enjoy the creativity of cooking. I never use recipes.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
TD: As a student at De La Salle, I was involved in intramurals, the camera club, student government and, naturally, the Science Club.
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
TD: I have for 21 years, and still, coach the girls and boys’ frosh/soph tennis teams. Each year they provide excitement and great satisfaction. I have been able to bring the Quetico trip experience to Fenwick. Over the years I have taken hundreds of Friars to experience true nature.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
TD: I have been so impressed with Fenwick students. They strive for excellence in the class and in athletic competition. Students learn the great traditions of Fenwick. I have enjoyed my time with Fenwick students who are friendly, teachable and receptive to change.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
TD: Interestingly, a freshman in one of my classes asked that question a few months ago. My reply was that I thought teaching would be fun. There was no follow up question to my answer. Later, I relayed this story to Mr. Groom. He asked me the right follow up question. “Has it been fun?” My answer was a big “YES.” I have always enjoyed the stimulation of teaching in the class, in the labs, and on the tennis courts. I still do. When students and athletes can see you have a love and passion for what you do they respond with the effort they need for success. If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life. Teaching and coaching have been magic.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
TD: I love to get excited for every topic I teach and coach and show passion in my teaching. Every class, every year, has been a chance to teach and coach a new story, to an inquisitive audience. Some days have been diamonds, some days have been stones. I strive to be fair, and teach for success.
What is your favorite class to teach?
TD: Definitely biology! It is what our lives are about. I want my students to understand they are citizens and stewards of our planet. We can control our health and affect the health of others around us. I hope my students understand that we are not alone on our planet, but together we make up a beautiful tapestry of life.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
TD: When my students have experienced success when I encouraged them to think. I ask many questions in class as I teach. The answers to those questions are not as important as having my students think about possible answers. My students should not be afraid of a wrong answer, as they should know they can learn with a right or wrong answer. I encourage my students to reach conclusions on their own, then they can experience success on their own. I love and appreciate the personal notes I have gotten from students and athletes over the years. Whenever I read them, they inspire me and remind me of my humanity.
What challenges face students today?
TD: I believe my students face a challenge and crisis involving technology. I hope they can find a balance between the benefits of information and the potential negativity of social media. They need to not lose the value and importance of interpersonal communication skills. They need not be afraid to have a willingness to lead rather than follow. They should never be reluctant to challenge themselves.
Since you are retiring from teaching this year, are there any thoughts or words you would like to share with the Fenwick community?
TD: Over the years, I have met amazing students, wonderful parents and caring faculty. Being able to work with two of my closest friends, Mr. Arellano and Mr. Sullivan, has been a thrill. I appreciate all the support and help I have gotten from the parents of my tennis teams and parents of my students. Being able to teach and coach girls after spending decades at an all-boys school has been a highlight of my teaching and coaching career.
I have shared with various groups what I think are the most important seven words we can say. Use them often in your life. I share them now with you. “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for any time that I have wronged you. “Thank you.” Thank you all for the wonderful memories you have given me about Fenwick and its community. “I love you.” I love you all for making my life such a happy one. And from my favorite poem, “The Winner:” “… sooner or later the person who wins, is the person who thinks they can.”