It was his first day at school, and he was excited and ready for what was going to come. As he made his made his way towards his new room, the assistant principal stopped him.
The assistant principal asked him if he was a parent who had lost his way. Confused, he told the assistant principal that he was a teacher and it was his first day. He continued on towards his room, laughing, and he knew then that he was going to stay at MVHS for a long time.
Since his very first day at MVHS, math teacher Jon Stark sought to make his class a fun, creative and engaging place where his students could learn and enjoy math. From incorporating riddles and music to long entertaining stories, Stark has always tried to re-invent the typical classroom environment.
Junior Gaurav Datta, who is in Stark’s class, believes that Stark’s class is different from other classes in that you learn about other things as well as math.
“You learn a bunch of random knowledge that you wouldn’t get out of other classes,” Datta said. “I’ve learned a lot so, future students will miss out on that.”
After 18 years of teaching at MVHS , Stark decided it was time he stop teaching and instead pursue his personal interests, which include traveling and mountain climbing. Stark is even considering moving to Colorado, his favorite state.
“Teaching has been very rewarding, but I’ve been at it a long time, and it feels right to move on,” Stark wrote in an email to El Estoque. “I like the idea of not having an alarm to wake me every weekday, and I really like the idea of never grading another test.”
Junior Jim Wang, a student of Stark’s, believes that the school will lose a great teacher and the math department will be heavily affected with Stark’s retirement.
“I definitely think Stark was a pretty good teacher and the school is pretty lucky to have him. So it’s not going to be the same,” Wang said.
According to Wang, Stark’s teaching style is different from most and can’t be imitated. Every morning, Stark plays a song, some of which are old and are not recognizable to students. He asks students to guess the artist and unsurprisingly, they often guess incorrectly. He wants students to feel comfortable with getting answers incorrect and not being afraid to say their answers.
“He would start off class by asking us to guess the artists and where they’re from and would tell us a little bit about the music and give us some exposure to America’s culture,” Wang said.
But on March 12, the class’s usual routine of soft music and a riddle on the board was interrupted as Stark’s students were instead welcomed by a substitute teacher. That morning, Stark had been involved in a serious biking accident and would not be returning for a couple of weeks.
“He has told us that he has been involved with accidents before,” Datta said. “Since he is never late or absent, we figured that something like that may have happened.”
Stark was biking to school on Lawrence Expressway when a drunk driver hit him. The driver later attempted to flee the scene but was forced to stop when he crashed into a tree shortly afterward.
“From my point of view, it was a crime,” Stark wrote. “Driving drunk on a license already suspended for DUI, causing critical injuries and leaving the scene of a collision is a felony, not a simple mistake or accidental misjudgment.”
Junior Sidharth Rajaram shares Stark’s perspective on the incident, stating that he has no sympathy for drunken drivers and is glad that Stark is doing better.
“The fact that he’s fine and cognizant is a good thing and I personally hope that he uses legal skills to inflict monetary harm onto whoever [the driver] is,” Rajaram said.
This is the longest time that Stark has been absent from school, as all his other incidents have been fairly minor and only resulted in a day’s absence. He has been absent for a couple of weeks now but is gradually recovering.
“I have had a few minor low-speed collisions in the last twenty year with cars making right turns into me, but nothing anywhere near this serious,” Stark wrote. “I have never had a forgiving view of drunk driving, and this experience really confirms my attitude”.
Stark expects to return on May 1, after he confirms with his doctors that he is ready and able to continue teaching again.
He reported that he had suffered a brain bleed, several broken bones in his face, a big gash on his forehead, separation of the C4/C5 vertebrae in his neck, a sprained right shoulder, burns on his left arm, and many deep wounds on his hands, arms, and elbows. He also suffered wounds on his leg and ankle.
Despite the fact that this accident has taken an unexpected toll on his ability to work, Stark does not think that this incident has impacted his overall decision to retire.
“I’m working pretty hard to be able to return for the last month or so,” Stark wrote. “I’d like to wrap things up properly and not just quit now.”