The Integral Parts of Mr. Curko


Gia Shin, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Standing outside room 111, you can often hear a booming, enthusiastic voice teaching derivatives and slipping in pop culture jokes here and there. Though his students agree that he is a beloved and devoted teacher, Mr. Curko has several facets beyond his color-coordinated suit-and-tie combination.

Curko has been teaching for 16 years: one year at Bergenfield High School and 15 in the Tenafly district. “[Math] is the subject I have the most [affinity] for—it’s the subject I love teaching the most, and I love analytical thinking, and I love logic,” he said. Curko received his Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) degree at Stevens Institute of Technology and his Master of Education degree at The College of New Jersey. He teaches Precalculus – Intro to Calculus Honors (PITCH) and AP Calculus AB, with this year being his first year teaching an AP course.

Before teaching at the high school, Curko taught for three years at the middle school. Of course, he prefers “interacting with kids that are on the cusp of going to college.” According to Curko, “I think [high schoolers] have an ability to appreciate a more mature sense of humor… The class atmosphere lends itself to one of a give-and-take that’s a lot more grown up than over at the middle school.” Curko recounts a time where he called up a middle school student to the board to solve a math problem and the student wrote in really small lettering. “My humor, being what it is, I [told him], ‘Great job. Wonderful job. Just next time, write a little smaller. And he took it seriously.”

Curko is known for his unique teaching style and for adding dramatic flair to his classes. He feels that he could more easily relate to his students as he is a father of three children who are 13, 18, and 21 years old. “Family is number one,” he said. “I think it’s actually a wonderful thing [to have a son in his senior year] because I get to put on my teacher’s hat sometimes, but I also get to put on my parent hat and think, how would I want my students to be treated? 

I want my son to be treated fairly, so I have to think about your best interest[s] whenever I [give out assignments]. A lot of the time, I’ll even run stuff by my son and I’ll say,Hey, what do you think? Is this fair, or is this not?’… That way, the big picture is always in mind… I think that’s an advantage of [having] kids that are my students’ age.”

When he was younger, Curko did not expect that he would grow up to be a teacher. “I think I was definitely penciling in myself for a soccer career,” he said. “I came close to pursuing that to the point where I went on professional try-outs. I thought that that was my future, but then when I weighed the fact that I had a mechanical engineering degree and how valuable that was, and the uncertainty of a professional sports career (I think my parents also pushed me in that direction), I decided against becoming a soccer player.”

Rather than playing soccer professionally, Curko played semi-professional soccer for a league in which the teams have an option to pay their players. He did so until he was about 30 years old, and was able to enjoy a glimpse of playing soccer at such a high level. “I can’t say that I regret not becoming a professional soccer player, because then, I don’t think I would’ve met my wife, and I don’t think we would have the kids we have now … Yeah, it would have been great and wonderful, but [I have] no regrets.”

Unexpectedly, soccer was one of the doors of opportunity leading to his eventual teaching profession. “I was in the manufacturing sector [for 13 years], and I wanted to change careers. I knew that I wanted to do something that was more of a calling for me, and I thought teaching was definitely that.” Curko was an assistant soccer coach at Tenafly to the head coach, Bill Jaeger. Through that connection, Curko was able to get his provisional teaching certificate and taught at Bergenfield before moving on to teach at Tenafly. In total, he coached at Tenafly for seven years and at Northern Valley Old Tappan for three years.

Curko’s last year of coaching was in 2014 as a head coach at Tenafly, and it was arguably the most memorable experience for him. “To this day, alumni of that team get in touch with me, and we talk about how their lives have been since then,” he said. “One of the most rewarding things of this entire profession—be it teaching, be it coaching—is a long-lasting relationship beyond [graduation].”

Curko eventually stopped coaching because he wanted to fully devote his time to teaching math and spending time with his family. Instead, he vicariously experiences the joys of athletics by supporting his children. “Their sports endeavors are always high on my list because I love watching my kids’ [growth],” he said. “Athletics has always been a big part of my life, so I think that leads to personal growth and sports helps define commitment in life.”

Beyond all else, Curko wants to see his students succeed. “I love seeing how the movie turns out, and it means a lot to me that my students or my student-athletes go on to be successful,” he said.