Archmere Welcomes New Dual Subject Teacher: Mr. Robert Janoski

Grace Koch and Alexis Rendel

In the 2020-2021 school year, the Archmere faculty welcomed new English-History teacher Mr. Robert Janoski, an experienced humanities teacher from Philadelphia with an unusual hobby. Mr. Janoski’s position is unique since, apart from a few interdisciplinary classes, Archmere teachers are not typically members of multiple academic departments. His schedule alternates between Mondays and Thursdays teaching sophomore American Literature and Tuesdays and Fridays teaching freshman World History to 1600. Freshman and current student of Mr. Janoski’s Grace Koch sat down with him to discuss his teaching style, personal background, and his goals for the upcoming school year. 

 

G: Did you always want to teach? When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

R: In high school, I thought about being a teacher, and then mostly through college, I strayed away from that, and then after college when I was looking at grad school, some of my professors brought it (that interest) back.

 

G: What is your teaching experience before Archmere? 

R: I taught for a number of years in Philly at a private Catholic school. In many ways, the school was similar to Archmere and in many ways, it was different – there was a different student body. It was still a college prep school but there was more of a humanity block with English and history. The periods (I taught) were 97 minutes of mainly freshman English and history.  

 

G: What is your approach to teaching? Do you have a specific mindset or way of teaching? 

R: Typically the best teaching is student-centered. The teacher should be putting in work before and after the lesson, but during the lesson, it should be the students doing the work. I feel that if I am talking less, it’s a productive lesson because it should be the students doing the heavy lifting. That’s where the best learning happens.

 

G: What made you want to teach high schoolers? 

R: I’m certified in teaching from seventh grade to twelfth. I did think about teaching college, but I feel like if you’re teaching college students, especially upperclassmen, they are beginning to find the things that they like and want to pursue in the future and motivation – they are far along in those paths, but they’re going to generally make it. High school is really critical because some people falter during this time and could stray from the path, so I feel like it is much more fulfilling to teach high school because the students are not as far along the discovery path. It at least gives them an option for the future, so it’s fulfilling and rewarding for me. They’re not as set in their ways, and it’s harder in some ways but more rewarding. Also, I don’t have the patience for elementary school. 

 

G: Do you have a favorite period in history? A book or period in literature? What are you most excited to teach in either subject? 

R: This is kind of an impossible question. I like times and places we look at in ancient world history, especially Ancient Egypt. In US and European history, I like World War II and that era. Choosing a favorite book is really difficult. I reread Lord of the Rings almost every year. I don’t read a ton of fantasy, though. Normally, I like novels about normal people going through normal things that everybody goes through. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is one of my favorites. It’s about normal people. I do read a lot of nonfiction about a bunch of stuff. I was reading about diseases the other day because I figured it’s related to COVID and because it fits into the novel we are reading in English class. 

 

G: How has adjusting to Archmere been during the COVID times? 

R: Any time you switch jobs is difficult. It’s more difficult when you’re a teacher or student, and this is short of impossibly difficult with COVID. It’s been hard. I think it’s worth it, though. I feel like what I do every day is important; if I didn’t feel that, it wouldn’t be doable. I’m pretty acclimated to Archmere at this point. I think some of the COVID stuff has been harder to adjust to. I’m very cautious with my COVID precautions, but I hate having to wear a mask. I think it is harder for the students when they can’t see their teacher’s face. In some ways a small class is great, but in other ways, it’s intimidating for students. It’s hard for students to get used to it. I’m used to Archmere, but not COVID. 

 

G: Do you have a favorite moment at Archmere thus far? 

R: Miss Rodack makes fun of my outfit quite often (I’m kidding). There have been a lot of little ones, but not a huge one. When we finished a novel in English, there was excitement in the classes about the end of the book; it was really rewarding. In world history, when we took our second test, there were a handful of people who struggled on the first test and did great on the second. I was proud of their work. Not everybody did well, but a lot of people made improvements. In general, the Lego thing (the Freshmen C-Day seminar) was pretty cool too. 

 

G: Is there anything your students would like to know about you? 

R: Mr. Hannagan and I are big LEGO friends. LEGOs are expensive, so I can’t buy them all the time; they’re my Christmas gifts to myself. I normally have a big bin of LEGOs at the back of my room so students can come mess with them, but because of COVID, I can’t do that this year. LEGOs help me relax when I’m building them because I’m building them with instructions. 

Halloween was pretty cool – I’m glad students still dressed up even because of COVID.  

 

G: Any advice for your students? 

R: I think that the students here are generally good at this, some more than others, and it’s a learning curve for some: Don’t ever hesitate to ask for something. It sounds like a cliché, but they are often true. That’s a great thing about Archmere; office hours are not admitting defeat. It’s very normal to go and talk to your teacher and get help or ask questions and send an email. Keep doing that if you are, and if you’re not, my door is always open, and I’m here to help. This year, try to stay positive. People worry about COVID to different degrees, and even if you’re not too scared of it, it weighs on everyone’s minds. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. We need to stay diligent and positive, even through the tough days.