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#PREPpeople: Josh Davendonis
Posted 09/13/2018 09:48AM

One in an occasional series of snapshots spotlighting the people of the St. John’s Prep campus

Science Teacher Josh Davendonis

HOMETOWN: I grew up in an Air Force family, so I don’t really have a hometown. I went to elementary School in New Jersey, England, and Illinois.

EDUCATION: MAT, Cornell University; B.S. in biology, Beloit College (Wis.); high school at Lakenheath in England and Highland High School (Illinois)

YEARS AT ST. JOHN’S: 3

SUBJECT: Grade 7 and 8 science, which is “a cross-cut of earth science, life science and physical science.”

FUN FACT: “When I was 12, I cycled across the United States with my parents. It was a 49-day trip from California to Virginia, which took pretty much the whole summer. It was one of my mom’s lifelong dreams and she roped us into it. We were with a group of other people, including tandem bike riders, so depending on the day, I would ride by myself or with my mom or dad.”  

DESCRIBE A TEACHER WHO INSPIRED YOU GROWING UP: “Mr. Hahn was my seventh grade science teacher at Helen A. Fort Middle School in New Jersey. He was the first male teacher I ever had. His classroom was classic: dark wood-paneled glass cases that were like curiosity cabinets filled with jars and interesting specimens. Right away, it was visually intriguing, and Mr. Hahn modeled the idea that it was okay to be interested, that it was important to want to know things. His classes were so cool and different that it was mind-blowing. His ability to be engaged in the world around him had a really big impact on me. I’d always been a good student and wanted to know things, but we were doing such cool stuff with Mr. Hahn that it was the first moment I saw the rest of my world in the future.”

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TEACH FOR A LIVING?: “I never intended to be a teacher! In college, I was working at a field station in Colorado, studying a very specific mutualism between a type of sunflower that grows in alpine meadows and a number of ant species. It was interesting, but I didn’t feel like that specific project had a practical purpose. It made me turn my back on science and after graduating, I went to China to teach English to college students. I discovered that I really liked teaching, but really missed science. I wanted to marry teaching with science, so I applied to Cornell and it all came together. I feel very lucky at St. John’s. Your creativity is fostered here.”

WHAT EXPERIENCE OUTSIDE OF ST. JOHN’S INFORMS YOUR WORK WITH STUDENTS AT THE PREP?: “Living abroad made me appreciate things in the United States so much more. Any good teacher has to have their content down, but what else do you teach? There’s this whole character development aspect, where they’re forming into the people they’re going to become. I feel like it’s a really crucial time to make sure you’re present as a role model.”

WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE EVERY DAY?: “There’s something timeless about being a teenager. The whole world is available to you. My students come in every day and they’re not worried; they’re here to enjoy and to be. They’re still naturally curious, and that’s invigorating. Who wouldn’t want to be 13 again? It’s a great time. The horizon is wide open to you. It’s powerful.”

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