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Friday, May 31, 2013

Top Ten Educators of the Year: Mark Vondracek



Mark Vondracek, Ph.D.
Physics Teacher and Research Advisor
Evanston Township High School
Evanston, Illinois

NSHSS is pleased to have announced its Top Ten Educators of the Year in December 2012 and is highlighting these educators throughout this year. The 2012 Claes Nobel Educators of the Year awards were presented to ten exemplary educators who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to preparing students for success in college and in life. These educators are among NSHSS’s student-nominated Claes Nobel Educators of Distinction program that recognizes educators who model best practices in teaching, are a positive influence for students and peers, and who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in education. Since the inception of the Educators of Distinction program in 2004, NSHSS has recognized more than 35,000 educators worldwide. 

Dr. Vondracek: If one just truly listens to what they have to say, there is no limit to what students will try.

Eighteen years ago, for Mark Vondracek two roads converged: the path toward a career in research and university academia, and the path toward a career in science high school education. He chose the latter because, as he says, "I have a deep interest and passion for helping others. But at a more fundamental level, this decision was made because I also have a deep-rooted belief that all individuals have the capacity to learn science and math."

Now eighteen years of high school students have benefited from his choice.

Dr. Vondracek earned a Ph.D. in High Energy Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Teacher Certification from the DePaul University Graduate School of Education. He has received the Award of Excellence, the highest award for teachers in Illinois from the Illinois State Board of Education, as well as having been selected as a finalist for Illinois Teacher of the Year. Additionally, he has been named an Intel Teacher of Merit, National Science Talent Search, and a Seimens-Westinghouse Science Teacher of Merit, among other awards, including ETHS Teacher Excellence Awards and AAPT Excellence in Physics Teaching Awards. As an advisor, he has coached dozens of his students to win recognition for science research, including11 Intel Science Talent Search National Semifinalists; one Intel Science Talent Search National Finalist; 7 Siemens Science and Technology Competition Regional Semifinalists; 4 Siemens Regional Finalists; and  2 Siemens National Finalists.

His TSA TEAMS students (Test of Engineering Aptitude, Science, and Mathematics) have won a number of state tournaments, including the varsity overall national championship in 2005.

The student who nominated Dr. Vondracek as a Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction wrote that, "Dr. Vondracek goes out of his way to be extremely helpful to students. He is a truly inspiring teacher who makes himself available 16-18 hours a day to his physics students and has had a huge impact on my understanding of physics and my life."