Connections

THEIR LIFE'S WORK

When Duty Calls

Retired Marine Larry Czubinski ’14, ‘18G took an unexpected turn into a second career teaching math and special education.

by Sofia Tokar

Larry Czubinski at Honeoye school

Larry Czubinski ’14, ’18G has dipped his feet in the Euphrates River, gazed upon the Great Pyramid of Giza, and climbed the mountains of Uganda.

“I was an active duty enlisted Marine for 26 years, 8 months, and 14 days,” he says. “I’ve been all over the world on deployments. After retiring, I didn’t want to work as part of security services overseas or on a military base. I needed a new challenge.”

In talking with his wife and children, Czubinski realized that he often found himself in the role of an educator — be it as a military instructor training military officers and reservists, or as a Boy Scouts leader and sports coach guiding young people. Teaching seemed a clear choice for his second career, but less clear was what subject he should teach. History or social studies was an obvious choice in light of his professional experiences, as was English, given his love of literature. But Czubinski has rarely chosen the path of least resistance.

“When you join the Marines and go through training and basic and everything, it instills in you a desire to confront your weaknesses,” he says. “That process of continual self-improvement helps you better understand others who are struggling.”

Knowing the value of overcoming obstacles, Czubinski decided to conquer the subject he had struggled with in high school: math. “My math teachers back then never answered my questions, never explained why we had to do this,” he recalls. “They gave me 50 problems for homework and expected me to do it the way they did. How they taught just didn’t reach me.”

That changed when Czubinski enrolled at Nazareth College — first for his bachelor’s in math and then for his master’s in inclusive adolescence education. Professors like Yousuf George and Matt Koetz “challenged me, engaged me, and emphasized self-discovery as part of learning,” he recalls.

Now, as a math and special education teacher in the Honeoye Falls–Lima public school district in New York, Czubinski aims to emulate his Nazareth professors for his latest mission: piloting an integrated co-teaching method of math instruction, one that brings together high school students of all abilities in the classroom. This includes teenagers with learning disabilities or behavioral issues, along with those who need regular check-ins or the occasional reality check.

“I want to help the kids who need an extra push or some more support because I was once that kid. And if I could learn math, anybody can,” he says.

In his previous career, Czubinski regularly relocated from one place to another — a tendency that has carried through to the classroom today, where he moves from seat to seat, reading the room as intently as he reads books, constantly building rapport with his students.

He explains, “I’ll lean back or sideways to ask them, ‘How you doing with this?’ ‘Did you understand that problem?’ ‘See how this relates to that video game you like?’ It’s all about relationships and understanding. As a teacher, I have a responsibility to reach them any way I can.” If what’s past is prologue, then when duty calls, Czubinski’s students can count on him to answer.


Sofia Tokar is a writer in Rochester, N.Y.

Larry Czubinski with Yousuf George

Larry says that professors like Yousuf George, pictured here, shaped his academic experience at Nazareth and informed his approach to teaching.

Achievement

In 2013, Larry received an Outstanding Adult Student award from Rochester Area Colleges Continuing Education (RACCE). The RACCE Outstanding Adult Student award is given to students who demonstrate excellence in academics and an ability to balance personal and professional responsibilities while working towards a college degree.