M.Ed., Mansfield University
B.S., East Stroudsburg University
Hailing from the small town of Sayre, Pennsylvania, where the cows outnumber the people, Joshua Ilnicki considers himself lucky to have found a teaching position at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, VA. It isn’t because Front Royal is a booming metropolis compared to Sayre, however. It is because Mr. Ilnicki is passionate about teaching, guiding, and mentoring students—and that makes him the perfect teacher for the students at R-MA Middle School.
“My grandfather was a teacher,” Mr. Ilnicki says. “I always thought that would be the greatest job in the world. He was always learning, and he got to interact with people every day.”
Mr. Ilnicki briefly entertained the notion of becoming an architect when he went through a phase where he thought that would be the greatest job in the world. However, he soon realized the right career for him would be teaching health and physical education (PE), as it combined some of his key interests and talents—helping people and applying his athletic ability to his job.
“I’m very interested in paying it forward,” he says, “and giving students the skills they need to have a healthier lifestyle.”
Working at the Middle School level suites his passion particularly well, as Mr. Ilnicki is able to work with the students at a young age, when he still has a chance to make a real impact. In addition, a boarding school environment provides him with additional opportunities to mentor the students. “I really enjoy the Middle School age because during this part of their lives, they are going through physical and emotional changes,” he says. “They need extra attention and guidance, and I think I’m an affable enough person to provide that guidance.”
With a degree in Health and Physical Education, Mr. Ilnicki continued his education, working on his Master’s of Education in Special Education, while at the same time he served as a paraprofessional as a student aide and substitute teacher in the Sayre Area School District. However, it didn’t take him all that time to determine what kind of teacher he wanted to be.
“My philosophy, since my sophomore year in college, has been to provide a safe, pro-social environment that provides everyone with the opportunity to learn,” he says. “If a child feels safe, then he doesn’t become subject to bullying, and he is more apt to make a connection and confide in me.”
The fact that PE is not conducive to lectures is a great bonus for Mr. Ilnicki, since he hates lecturing. Students will find that he carries over into his Middle School Health and Pre-Algebra classes his methods of guided discovery, helping students to explore new ideas and become problem-solvers. He strives to make his classes interactive, and group work is a frequent part of class.
In his free time, Mr. Ilnkicki can be found enjoying time with his wife and young daughter. He is an avid outdoorsman; he enjoys hiking, cycling, running, and fishing. When he can’t get outside, he might be found playing a video game or two—his claim to fame was being ranked #3 in the world at “Amplitude,” which was the predecessor of Rock Band.
Mr. Ilnicki was named R-MA's "Teacher of the Year" for the 2012-13 school year and "Coach of the Year" for 2014-15.