TEACHER TUESDAY BLOG
"The ESD teachers are so welcoming and open to helping you. They want you to succeed."
- a member of the Class of 2017
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Matt Varvir: Upper School Science Teacher
What motivated and inspired you to teach? Growing up, I never knew what I wanted to be when I became an adult. Unfortunately, this extended to my college education, too, and I ended up just majoring in physics and theater because 1) I was good at those disciplines and 2) I enjoyed them. However, when I visited the Galapagos Islands when I was 20, I was informed that many of the efforts that were being put into place to protect the fragile environment of the archipelago were aimed at children because the adults were, in many ways, too old to adapt. When I heard this, something just clicked--if you want to see meaningful change in this world, focus on children. Students have the capacity to learn, to grow, and to make a better future--teaching them is the most impactful choice I could ever make.
What makes you excited to come to school every day? The community at ESD, the teachers, the staff, even the students, is so supportive that my job does not actually feel like "work." I already enjoyed teaching science to students; this environment pushed that even further.
What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? I do not think I do an overly good job of getting this across simply because it is so antithetical to the stressful environment that many of my students find themselves in, but I want my students to learn that their value is in no way determined by their performance. Yes, good grades are nice, but a willingness to work and a desire to learn are, in my opinion, way more valuable. I can teach students physics (slowly, but surely). I cannot necessarily teach them perseverance or intellectual curiosity--that is something that they often need to bring to the table themselves.
Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I practiced martial arts for most of my life (starting back in the first grade). Over the years that includes karate, tae kwon do, Brazilian jujitsu, kuk sool won, and kickboxing. I actually practiced mixed martial arts (MMA) for a few years when I was a bit younger as well.
Outside of the classroom, I watch a lot of movies and very much enjoy learning about the finer aspects of film, such as editing, cinematography, etc. My goal this year is to see at least one movie in the theater every week.
I watch baseball religiously and have been a lifelong Texas Rangers fan. Needless to say, I am used to having my hopes and dreams obliterated.
During my theatrical career, I acted in many different roles. While playing Hamlet in college was definitely the most prestigious role I ever had, my favorite part was playing Estragon in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."
What is your favorite book and why? This is an extremely hard question. So I am going to cheat and list a few: The Call of the Wild by Jack London; the idea of the "western frontier" has always held intrigue for me. That combined with Buck's perseverance and ability to adapt to desperate circumstances makes this an exciting, powerful read. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut; Vonnegut may be my favorite author due to his odd humor, quirky style, and unrelenting devotion to irony. This was the first book of his I ever read and exemplifies everything I like about his writing. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell; this book was extremely emotionally affecting for me. An interesting premise and a heart-rending tragedy. (This book is definitely not appropriate for younger students.)
If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? 1) My grandfather, who in many ways was the only extended family member that I was particularly close to. He passed away when I was a freshman in high school and I would have liked to have talked to him as an adult. 2) Stephen Colbert. I am a big fan and I just see him being very entertaining but also polite in a setting like that. 3) Albert Einstein. A bit cliche coming from a physics teacher, but he was such a unique and entertaining figure. A model of genius, but also a flawed man with many different passions and aspirations.
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