Fenwick Faculty Focus: Biology Teacher Dan Wnek

Science/Biology Teacher Mr. Wnek dons his summer-school attire (below). The father of three young daughters came to Fenwick seven years ago from St. Patrick High School in Chicago.


hat is your educational background?

DW: I have a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, and I’m currently working on my Master’s in Biology from Clemson University.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

DW: I taught Chemistry and Biology at St. Patrick High School, where I also coached track, cross-country, soccer and volleyball.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

DW: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.  Both myself and my one-year-old daughter, Julia, enjoy it immensely.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

DW: Outside of the classroom, my main interest is my family, which includes three daughters under the age of six.  When I find extra time, I enjoy playing volleyball, ping pong, soccer and cooking.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

DW: I ran track and cross country, and was part of the NHS [National Honor Society].

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

DW: At Fenwick, I coach track and cross country.  I’m also part of the Robotics Club and Kairos.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

DW: Motivated and courteous.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

DW: When I was in college, I developed a reputation of someone who took good notes in class and understood the material. I often found myself helping my peers and realized that I had a knack for explaining concepts to those who did not fully understand and, of course, I enjoyed it. Teaching was the next obvious step.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

DW: Being able to relate to students, largely through my sense of humor, and showing them that I care not only about their work but also about them and their lives outside the classroom.

What is your philosophy of education?

DW: My philosophy of education emphasizes an eclectic and interactive teaching model with a variety of both student-centered and teacher-centered methods that maximize student achievement. I believe that students are most inspired to learn science when they do science; therefore, my students spend as much time doing related laboratory activities as they do in lecture. I work diligently to create an effective learning environment that will encourage all of my students to be active and engaged learners for life, thereby achieving success both in and out of the classroom.​

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

DW: The little things bring me the most joy: When a student’s “light bulb” goes on, when it finally clicks for them; when I get emails from former students saying how much easier their college class is because they took my class.  Having met and gotten to know the dedicated and intelligent faculty and staff of Fenwick High School has also been an ongoing highlight of my years at Fenwick.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?

DW: Students are under more and more pressure to do more to distinguish themselves on college applications. Sometimes I wonder if students take on so many activities because they want to or because they feel like they have been made to do so. With the addition of technology/phones, they have the whole world at their fingertips, which does not leave a lot of time for sleep.

How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom?

DW: Students are very observant and can very quickly gauge if teachers are having a good day or not; whether teachers love what they do or not. I don’t feel like I need to do anything extraordinary to motivate students because I think they can be fueled by my passion of the subject and of teaching. Doing very cool and relevant labs doesn’t hurt either.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *