Thomas Jodelka: A Vision for Environmental Connection


Biology teacher Thomas Jodelka prepares for another class.

By Mathews Chirayil, Staff Contributor

In contrast to his usual dress shirt and tie, biology teacher, Thomas Jodelka, enjoys dressing in simple attire from time to time. His casual clothing style imitates his comfortability within his environment. His love for nature is emphasized in the colors he chooses to wear, from his green t-shirt to his brown, crisp shoes. Walking around the school, no one could miss his genuine smile sitting below a pair of frameless glasses.

Many students and faculty members find him to be an approachable person and are able to come to him with problems due to his gentle tone. Jodelka’s clear, concise teaching style serves to show his love for teaching students about nature and helping them make an impact in their community. Jodelka hopes to have students learn and connect with the environment around them.

“I want them to make a personal connection with the environment, get out and be active, realize that there are things that are bigger than them, and do their best to have a positive impact. I always have the saying, if not you then who?” Jodelka said.

As a young kid, Jodelka developed a passion for nature by investigating and exploring the world around him. He would collect such things as bumblebees, leaves, and other insects and examine them under a microscope. As a teenager, he never imagined that he would be a teacher of biology, but little did he know that his avenue for education was opened during his first year of college.

While at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Jodelka was planning to do engineering but realized it was not for him after attending an open house. The courses that were presented did not fit his interests. Eventually, by the end of his freshman year, he had decided to major in biology education after taking classes related to nature and being influenced by his father who also was a teacher.

“I got into a naturalist program in college which took a few years to complete. During this program, I learned about the work people do to restore the environment,” Jodelka said.

Once he became a freshman honors/regular biology teacher here at West, he began to become interested in providing work days for students. These work days would consist of clearing invasive species from forests. Jodelka loves learning and teaching about ecology, so it became a perfect fit according to his interests. Eventually, Jodelka had the idea of starting a club called Narwhals for his students. Many of the club members were ecstatic and loved the idea of being outside and helping our local prairies. In general, they enjoy the atmosphere of what Jodelka brings to the club and how it’s conducted.  

Senior officer Rachel Lupas is proud of what Jodelka brings to the club each and every time that they meet and is happy that someone like Jodelka is running it.

“Mr. Jodelka does a wonderful job of conducting our club. He is very passionate about what we do at Narwhals and this passion makes him a leader that can inspire and motivate us. He is very welcoming and always brings great joy to each and every member of our club,” Lupas said.

Senior officer Myra Esmail would agree that Narwhals has been an amazing experience thus far and Jodelka has made the club very interesting and fun.

“He always involves everyone in decisions, along with asking for people’s opinions on everything. It’s always very chill, yet productive. Along with that, the meetings are always informative but fun,” Esmail said.

Throughout his time being a teacher and club sponsor for Narwhals, it has always been Jodelka’s goal for his students to make a personal connection with nature. For him, it’s important for students to get outside and have an authentic experience with nature.