GLEN ELLYN – As a wide-eyed new teacher at Hadley Junior High School, Frank Tomaszkiewicz didn't know quite what to expect when he arrived at the school in 1974.
He still doesn't know what to expect each time he walks into his classroom. But that's what keeps the job exciting.
"Something is going to happen that's unexpected, and it's going to be good," Tomaszkiewicz said.
After working at Hadley from 1974 to 1978, he left for a couple of years to teach at schools outside District 41. Tomaszkiewicz returned to Hadley in 1980, and he has been there ever since.
"The academic freedom you have here to work with the students and help them achieve, that's hard to find at other schools," Tomaszkiewicz said.
The 70-year-old Tomaszkiewicz is the second most senior teacher in the district, according to the district's human resources department. And he said he's not looking to retire anytime soon.
Tomaszkiewicz started at Hadley as an art teacher, a job that has evolved into art technology. He knows the importance of using technology in his classroom.
"Now it's a digital world," he said. "Unlike drawing and painting and ceramics, which have been around for thousands of years, something new happens in this digital world every six weeks. I like the challenge of picking up a new skill and helping students learn it."
Strewn around his classroom are questions that his students have come up with, such as, "How can we improve our power grid?" and "Is texting language damaging the quality of formal written language?"
His students will research the questions and come up with realistic solutions to the problems, making a short video in the process.
"It's problem-based learning," Tomaszkiewicz said. "Our students are engaged in inquiry-based learning, a part of problem-based learning."
In his classroom, students refer to him as "Mr. T." It's a nickname that has been with him his entire career at Hadley.
Tomaszkiewicz said students came up with the nickname after he arrived at school because his last name was too hard to pronounce.
Sixth-grader Joseph Kim of Glen Ellyn enjoys having Tomaszkiewicz as a teacher.
"He's kind of funny and explains things well," Joseph said.
Fellow sixth-grader Celia Voigt of Glen Ellyn said she is able to express her creativity in his class.
"It is a good class to express yourself," Celia said. "He lets us draw pictures of things that describe us."
Over the years, Tomaszkiewicz said he has been able to discover what works and doesn't work when it comes to teaching students. He said the benchmarks of effective learning still apply today – rules, routines, praise, consequences and engaging activities.
"These are things that work," he said.