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Tim Dzurko Leads Students to Success

DzurkoAs much as Tim Dzurko likes seeing his students succeed, he’s also encouraged when they fail.


That tells him he’s doing his job as a Park Forest Middle School technology education teacher and Technology Student Association club advisor. For him, the mistakes signify that students are diving into complex projects, trying out creative approaches and overcoming challenges.


“For many of them as seventh-graders, it’s the first time they’ve ever had to build anything from the ground up,” he said. “It’s a neat experience to watch them fail, re-apply themselves and come up with a working solution.”


Those setbacks have added up to much success since he joined the State College Area School District in 2018, as his TSA students annually have excelled at regional and state competitions. This spring, for example, Park Forest placed first in eight state level events, with the champions qualifying for the 2022 National TSA Conference in Dallas, Texas, in June. 


There, they continued their run with national championships in STEM Children’s Stories (Natalie Branstetter), Technical Design Challenge (Melinda Wu and Yuer Gao) and Website Design (Leo Ling, Ian Lei and Leo Wang). 


Additionally, Park Forest was the runner-up in Electrical Applications (Leo Ling and Ian Lei), Data Science and Analytics (Melinda Wu and Leo Wang), Technology Bowl Challenge (Leo Wang, Leo Ling and Ian Lei) and Mass Production (Natalie Branstetter, Yuer Gao and Linda Wang). The team also took home third places in Video Game Design (Natalie Bransetter and Westin Lenkey) and Inventions and Innovations (Natalie Branstetter, Yuer Gao, Luke Bradbury, Theo Oppermann and Anthony Olsson).


National Champs

“The student body here is outstanding,” Dzurko said. “The kids are genuinely motivated and energetic, and they look forward to the activities.”


Middle school TSA programs offer an after-school extension of the required technology education curriculum for sixth to eighth grades. Participants can choose from 35 competition events that span a wide range of fields, including biotechnology, coding, web design, data analytics and science, video game design, cybersecurity, forensic technology, construction, digital photography, medical technology, STEM animation and structural engineering.


“There’s really something for everybody,” Dzurko said.


Currently, Mount Nittany Middle School does not have an active TSA chapter. At Park Forest, TSA students meet weekly to work on projects either individually or on teams. As their advisor, Dzurko makes sure they initially understand each event’s criteria and then, along the way, keeps them on track by steering them to the right tools and resources.


“I truly do it for the kids,” Dzurko said. “I like providing those opportunities for the students. I tell them all the time: It’s nice to receive rewards and accolades, but that’s not the main reason (for doing TSA). It’s a great organization that fosters growth and leadership for them. I mean, the four C’s of 21st century learning — creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking — that’s what TSA is.”


Originally, Dzurko sought to be a woodshop teacher, inspired by his favorite subject and high school teacher. Two years into the California University of Pennsylvania industrial arts program, as computer-controlled equipment proliferated, he adjusted to the times and switched to technology education.


“I had the best of both words in my undergraduate education,” he said. “So I’m kind of old-school, but I see the benefit of integrating the newer technologies.”


DzurkoNext came 22 years of teaching technology education and advising TSA clubs in the Altoona Area School District. During that time, he earned a master’s degree in education from Saint Francis University and received several accolades, including being named the High School Advisor of the Year from the Pennsylvania Technology Student Association and a Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year finalist from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year.


“Tim’s passion for technology education is evident in both his dynamic lessons he prepares for his students taking his classes as well as with the countless hours he spends working with his TSA students to prepare them for competitions,” Park Forest Principal Karen Wiser said. “He inspires his students to think outside of the proverbial box with their engineering and systems designs. He is truly preparing our students to lead the way with critical thinking skills in the field of technology education that will benefit them regardless of which path they take in their future careers.” 


Each year, as he settles in with new classes and TSA club members, Dzurko enjoys setting out on a shared journey.


“I tell them up front, I’m not an expert on anything, but we can work through whatever problems we encounter,” he said. “We’ll find a solution. If I don’t know the answer, we’ll figure it out and go from there.”


By Chris Rosenblum

Photos by Nabil K. Mark