Before they were your teachers…


Photo courtesy of Steve Jonak

Steve Jonak did not plan for the career he has now. In fact, Jonak was on a completely different track, but said he somehow ended up in his own paradise.

Straight out of high school, Jonak, Pre Calculus and AP Calculus teacher, went to the United States Air Force Academy, which was free at the time.

“It was very challenging,” Jonak said. “I got to do a lot of things normal college kids didn’t get to do, but at the same time it wasn’t really like college.”

Jonak faced challenges such as three weeks of the standard SERE (survival escape resistance and evasion) camp where he learned how to survive if shot down as well as how to escape from prisoner war camps. Jonak also learned how to fly airplanes. Those skills might not be as applicable in Jonak’s current job, but that was not all he learned.

“The academy taught me to be organized,” Jonak said. “You learn a certain amount of discipline, how to not complain and how to get things done. You learn to prioritize.”

Soon after finishing school at the Academy, Jonak was on his way to becoming an intercontinental ballistic missile launch officer.

“It was an interesting and fascinating system, well beyond anything our civilians might have known we had at the time, these missiles had a range of over 3,500 miles.” Jonak said. “I just didn’t want to turn the keys.”

And he never had to. Jonak got out of the Academy and became a land surveyor. During that time, he went back to school and got his teaching degree in earth and jungle science. After teaching multiple subjects for around seven years, Jonak returned to get his math degree. In 1988, Jonak was hired. This will be his 27th year teaching at KHS.

“Kirkwood is a great place,” Jonak said. “I’ve been in other schools and in comparison, this is paradise.”