Eighth grade math teacher says Malvern pushed him to work his hardest.
Alumnus Mr. Gary Duda ’88 says that he has seen many changes at Malvern from his time as a student to the present day.
“Malvern has certainly changed from a curricular standpoint, in the way we do things academically, from when I was here,” Duda said. “But I still feel that there’s a sense of family, a sense of togetherness, there’s a love for Malvern at our school and in our community.”
“I love the competitive environment here, it’s gotten much more competitive today because back when I was here, the student population was much more diverse in terms of the ability,” said Duda. “Nowadays, we have so many intelligent students, it’s unbelievable. It’s night and day compared now to what it was in the 80s.”
Duda scored over 1,000 points during his time as a basketball player at Malvern.
“It’s a nice accomplishment but that’s all it really is,” he said. “When I was here we never won an Inter-Ac championship in basketball. My only regret here at Malvern is not winning an Inter-Ac championship in basketball and experiencing that with my really good friends”
Despite great success as a basketball and baseball player, Duda says that his MECO weekend was the most prominent memory of the time he spent at Malvern as a student.
“It’s the culminating event that really brings a class together,” Duda continued. “There’s a bond going in, but when you’re done with that weekend you go ‘oh man there’s more to what we’re that just coming to class, going to practice, going to extracurriculars, there’s more to it.’”
Duda also said that he learned hard work at Malvern, “I didn’t really know if I was working as hard as I possibly could at that time. Malvern pushed me. It was the teachers that pushed me, coaches here pushed me, the experience pushed me.”
“We were competitive, we wanted to do well, and Malvern lit that fire,” he said.
Despite difficult classes, Duda says that he never found any of his classes to be impossible. “In terms of a class that said, ‘hey look you can’t do this’, I never had one of those here, because there was always a teacher that would be willing to help you. But I had a lot of challenging classes,” he said.
Duda cites Mr. Chuck Chinici, Mr. Steve Valyo, Mr. John Ostick, and Mr. Tom McGuire as some of his favorite teachers during his time at Malvern
“I can’t remember a teacher that I would say ‘I hated that class because of him or ‘I didn’t like that class because of her’,” Duda said. “I hope that’s still the case, because there are classes that you’re just not going to like, but I hope there’s not classes you don’t like because of the teacher.”
Before he was a teacher, Duda got a job right after graduating from college at an accounting firm. Duda says that although the money was great, the 80-hour work weeks were difficult.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever worked 80 hours a week, it’s not fun. But that’s what all the first, second, third year hirees do. They work those guys and girls to the bones to see if they can cut it. The money was great but it wasn’t for me”
He heard about a job opening for a math teacher at Malvern and applied for the job. “I got a call from the head of the middle school back then, Mr. Tosti, and he said ‘I got good news, Malvern’s going to hire you’”
Duda says that although it was weird at first to be colleagues with teachers he himself had as a high schooler, the relationship he shared with them wasn’t much different from he was a student.
“the cool thing about going here, is that the relationships that you guys have with your teachers now, they’re not that much different that what you’re gonna have if you come back and teach,” Duda said.
“Mr. White came back and he’s teaching now, Mr. Sammartino is back teaching now, so I think what they’re finding in their first year is that a lot of the teachers that they really liked are just friends,” Duda said. “They’re more friends than colleagues, even though from a professional standpoint they’re obviously colleagues.”
Duda has taught in both the upper school and the middle school, teaching Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Precalculus. He now teaches Algebra I to 8th graders.
Duda says the best advice he has ever received came from Father Flynn after he was hired as a teacher.
“I said ‘Father, I know that I know the material but I don’t know if I can teach it.’” Duda said. “He [Flynn] said ‘just be yourself, be yourself, and let those guys know that you’re not perfect. And if they know that, they’ll respect you more”
Duda now teaches 8th grade math, and has taught in both the upper and middle schools during his tenure as a teacher at Malvern.
“I don’t think I’ve done the same thing on consecutive days for 21 years”
“My days here are totally different from one day to the next which is why I love teaching here, because it’s not the same stuff.”
“What I take from Malvern first and foremost is you have to have a love for what you do. And if you don’t love what you do, then it’s not even worth doing.”
“I don’t think I’ve worked a day in 21 years being here at Malvern. My dad used to always say if you find something that you love you’ll never work a day in your life. And I feel that way here. In 21 years I don’t think I’ve ever really worked. “
“What motivates me is that every day when I come here I feel like I can make a difference … do I make a difference in someone’s life every day here? No. That’s not reality,” Duda said. “But I have that opportunity here … you don’t get that opportunity in every profession, and teaching is certainly one of them.”
“If you can walk out of here and say ‘you know what, I experienced Malvern,’ not that ‘I got through Malvern,’ or ‘I passed,’ or ‘survived’, that’s a cool thing, because you don’t always get that in life,” Duda said. “If you’ve experienced Malvern, that means you got involved. You just didn’t come to school and go through your thing, do your homework and go home.
Duda said, “I feel sorry for those few guys that kind of don’t. That kind of just float through Malvern and just wanna get out of here. I say ‘boy, there’s so much more to it than just stepping inside of a classroom and taking this subject or that subject.’”
When it comes to free time, Duda is an avid golfer, and is the coach of the golf team at Malvern, “If I could play golf every day for the rest of my life, my life would be complete”
Duda is also a little league baseball coach and a former girls’ softball coach and grade-school athletic director. “I’m a baseball coach, I coach my son’s little league team. I used to coach girls’ softball when both my daughters were involved in softball.”
“As you can see I like to be involved with kids, whatever it is,” Duda said.
Duda said that he also loves grilling, “Now’s my favorite time of the year, because whenever I can grill outside on my deck, there’s nothing better.”
Going forward, Duda hopes Malvern’s atmosphere and feel stays the same.
“I hope that those opportunities for guys in the future to experience the things that I’ve experienced through the MECO program and the teachers and the culture and the love of community,” Duda said. “I hope that doesn’t change going forward because then Malvern wouldn’t be Malvern.”