People often classify math nerds into two different groups: calculus people and statistics people. Thoroughly enjoying physics and calculus throughout my high school career, I confidently labeled myself a calculus person. After trying to fit another physics class in my senior schedule, the guidance office informed me (much to my dismay) it would not be feasible. I reluctantly signed up for AP Statistics thinking the class would interest me a little, certainly not thinking it would be my favorite class my senior year. Yet, it ended up being my favorite. And the teacher, Mr. Olenchek, is the main reason why.
A bald, 5’ 7’’ man in a sweater vest entered the classroom to introduce himself on the first day. After taking attendance, he asked, “Questions, comments...snide remarks?” Some of us exchanged weird glances, and I even let out a chuckle. He immediately made the classroom environment fun and relaxed.
Although relatively soft spoken, I cannot miss a word he says. He explains topics simply, making them easy to grasp and understand. In addition, his clever puns and remarks that go along with his lessons make the class entertaining and amusing.
If I start to doze off or yawn, he notices quickly and says, “Justin, math zone!” Though it may sound harsh, he does it in order to ensure his students’ understanding of the concepts. I never thought it would be possible to have a strict and learning-friendly class environment, but Mr. Olenchek pulls it off.
Though some say his puns are cheesy and quirky (I personally think they are clever and funny), the mnemonic devices he uses are effective in getting his students to remember crucial concepts in the course. Whether it’s Dorothy's “shape, center, spread, oh my” to describe a distribution of data, or Magnum “x-i p-i” to help us remember the mean of a probability distribution, his witty puns add an enjoyable component to his class that also enhances our learning.
Many students dread teachers’ criticism. However, I am not afraid to be incorrect in Mr. Olencheck’s class. Shouting out something incorrect often leads him to say “Take that back!” Followed by chuckles and smirks among the students, he goes over why the answer is incorrect in a sympathetic, reassuring, and clear explanation. If you struggle to respond to a question he poses, he commonly says “It’s okay, I’ll still give you a B for the day.” Although sarcastic, Mr. Olenchek’s light-hearted humor makes his classroom inviting to students.
The words “statistics” and “fun” do not go together for most. After Mr. Olenchek’s class, however, those words do go together for me. The laughs I have shared and the memories I hold in his class will stay with me forever, especially since my career will involve math. I know I will be in contact with Mr. Olenchek for many years to come. Not only did Mr. Olenchek make me a true “math nerd” by changing my opinion on statistics, but his tireless support and drive to make his students better inspires me to be a true learner.