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.

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W
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?

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John Polka, Beloved Biology Teacher and Hall-of-Fame Track Coach, Has Retired After 52 Years at Fenwick

Brother Rice alumnus who put the science in service for a half-century was fêted on June 15th.

Science teacher John Polka graduated with a B.A. in biology from St. Mary’s University (Winona, MN) in 1964, taught at a public school for one year, and has been at Fenwick High School ever since. Teaching some 5,000 students at the same school over a 52-year stretch is a milestone that few educators have achieved, but Polka comes by his love of teaching honestly: He is one of nine teachers in his family. The Brother Rice alumnus says he always had an interest in science and has taught biology since day one. Later, he earned a master’s degree in biology from Chicago State University.

Of his students at Fenwick, “They’re alive academically,” says Polka, who resides in River Forest. “They want to learn — it’s not dumb to be smart. And they challenge you; they keep you alive academically.” Polka developed the Ecology of the Rainforest and Marine Biology programs, traveling with students into the rainforests of Costa Rica and Peru. A trip to Belize featured hands-on marine biology lessons. A love of running is as much his passion as anything related to the classroom.

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