A cornerstone of Haverford’s math department would be an understatement for someone like Mr. Stephen Patrylak. After a twenty-one-year career at Haverford following twenty-eight as a successful actuary, Mr. Patrylak is ready to move on to his next chapter: retirement.
Having taught Geometry, Statistics*, and Calculus, Mr. Patrylak has taught over 1200 students during his time as a mathematics teacher. While analyzing the financial costs of risk would seem to have little connection to teaching upper school math, teaching is inherent to Mr. Patrylak.
“Teaching mathematics was just a natural step for me.”Mr. Stephen Patrylak
“I was always a teacher by profession and by training. But my job as an actuary,” Mr. Patrylak said, “also entails teaching young actuaries that were training to pass the actuarial exams. So, teaching was always a part of my job, and that’s the part I enjoyed the most having left that profession. Teaching mathematics was just a natural step for me.”
Joining Haverford in 2001 with his fifth-grade son, his earliest school days were marked by world events.
“One of my first recollections of Haverford, unfortunately, was 9/11. When the World Trade Centers were hit by terrorists in airplanes, that really put a damper on my first year, but the Haverford students pulled through. We mustered the courage to get through that and finish the year off very, very strong,” Mr. Patrylak said. “We put that episode behind us, and it happened to be a very good year.”
This event spoke to the determination and character not only of Mr. Patrylak but of the school as a whole. Even during the beginning of his school career, Mr. Patrylak never shied away from lending a hand, an essential element of his personality.
“When I came to Haverford, Mr. Patrylak immediately impressed upon me his willingness to do anything to help his students, and, in my case, a new teacher learning his way at a new school. We have evolved to create a lasting friendship by having co-taught courses and sharing rooms during our time together,” Mathematics Department Chair Mr. Justin Gaudreau said.
Along with his kindness, Mr. Patrylak is remembered for his devotion to his field.
“Mr. Patrylak is a tough, hardworking, kind, and caring person. He truly cares about his students and wants to impart his knowledge to the next generation.”Mitav Nayak ’22
“I first met Mr. Patrylak when I was interviewing him for an Index article on the GameStop saga last year. Right away, I could tell that he was an extremely intelligent individual and someone who is very passionate about his work,” 2021-22 Student Body President Mitav Nayak said. “Mr. Patrylak is a tough, hardworking, kind, and caring person. He truly cares about his students and wants to impart his knowledge to the next generation.”
Seeking more than the status quo, Mr. Patrylak has set a precedent for an initiative for positive change in the community.
“Initially, I do remember that Haverford was not such a welcoming place to all students. There was a faculty member here, Bruce Adams, who started what is now the Diversity Alliance. He asked me to join him to start integrating the Black Student Union into the Diversity Alliance, and we did that very successfully. I think we were able to recruit this diverse body of students. We were meeting once a week, and the meeting once a week started to become twice a week and the membership has grown exponentially,” Mr. Patrylak said.
Since the organization’s initiation, Mr. Patrylak and generations of students have shaped the Diversity Alliance into what it is today.
Since the organization’s initiation, Mr. Patrylak and generations of students have shaped the Diversity Alliance into what it is today. More than ever, his work extended outside the group and there have been radical effects on the entire atmosphere of the upper school.
“I see that the student body has really grown into one unit, and the term ‘brotherhood’ really started to become what it was intended to be at Haverford. I am going to be very sad to have to leave this place, having seen that kind of evolution and positive growth at the school,” Mr. Patrylak remarked.
In and outside the classroom, Mr. Patrylak remains exceptionally understanding and detail-oriented.
“His congenial and supportive nature has impacted every adult on campus.”Mr. Justin Gaudreau
“From a collegial perspective, I doubt you could find a teacher at Haverford in any division that hasn’t had a positive interaction with Mr. Patrylak,” Mr. Gaudreau said. “His congenial and supportive nature has impacted every adult on campus. His ability to remember our children’s names and activities and ask about our families left smiles and happiness in the wake of every conversation.”
You will never find a messy desk, trash, or a speck of dust in his classroom.
“I haven’t met many people who are more organized than him,” Nayak said.
A common phrase most students would hear in one of his classes was that he never felt like he was working. His devotion to educating students speaks for itself.
For those 21 years, I have never felt that I had a job. It was simply a calling and something that I love to do,” Mr. Patrylak said. “I often joke that I don’t teach. I simply sit in a room and wait for class to come in and then talk about the mathematics that is appropriate to the students that come into the room. And that is not far from the truth. I just enjoy doing that very much.”
Despite his deep knowledge of mathematics, the most important lesson that he teaches is how to be human. He embodies what it means to prepare boys for life and ultimately be good people.
“I would hope that I instilled in them what it means to be a human being and to treat people the way they want to be treated.”Mr. Patrylak
“I would hope that I instilled in them what it means to be a human being and to treat people the way they want to be treated. That’s even more important than the mathematics that I maybe had a hand in teaching them,” Mr. Patrylak said.
“The mathematics is here for maybe a statistics course that they were taking or a calculus course, but the life lessons are the ones that stay with them forever. I hope that they stick to that and that really is what I’m most proud of.”
The small conversations in class are part of his way of instilling values in every student. From cracking jokes and lectures, there is always something to learn from Mr. Patrylak.
Fifth Former Nate Mirin said, “One thing that will probably stick with me for a long time is, after class one day a large number of us were talking about the future, and he said something like, ‘Back in the 80s, everyone was freaking out about a hole in the ozone layer. Now, no one thinks about it. People figure things out, and life goes on.’ That idea really encapsulates a lot of who Mr. Patrylak is: someone who trusts others to a fault, and someone who always looks for the positives in both things and people.”
After a storied career, Mr. Patrylak looks to spend more time with his family.
“For the next several years, I want to spend some time with my wife, maybe traveling, maybe visiting our kids, and spend a little bit more time together.”Mr. Patrylak
“For the next several years, I want to spend some time with my wife, maybe traveling, maybe visiting our kids, and spend a little bit more time together,” Mr. Patrylak said.
In a final message to the community, Mr. Patrylak said, “Be a mensch. That means to be the best human being that you can possibly be.”