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The Aquilian

For Mr. Oryshkevych, a return to Eye Street just felt right

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Mr. Oryshkevych, Gonzaga Class of ’99, teaches his AP European History class. Photo taken by Luke Forde / Photo II
By Aidan Melley—

Mr. Adrian Oryshkevych sits at his desk when his sixth period class History of Totalitarianism begins. Over the next hour, surrounded by maps of the world, banners of the soccer clubs he supports, Gonzaga soccer championship trophies and the Ukrainian flag, Mr. Oryshkevych leads an intriguing class full of discussion with his small class of just three students. 

At some point during the class, Mr. Mark Howell, math and computer science teacher, will enter the classroom and join the discussion, often veering the discussion, of course, towards random topics such as his experience visiting China or his time living in Chicago as a college student. When Mr. Howell leaves the classroom, Mr. Oryshkevych picks up where he left off and finishes off the period strong. With such a small class, Mr. Oryshkevych is able to be much more personal with his students, and in return, his students are more open with him, which leads to the perfect blend of education and personal interaction in class. 

Mr. Oryshkevych, who along with teaching History of Totalitarianism, is the chair of the history department and teaches AP European History; he is in his ninth year of teaching at Gonzaga. A Gonzaga graduate of the class of 1999, Mr. Oryshkevych didn’t know at the time that he would return, but the flow of life brought him back to his old high school. 

Mr. Oryshkevych had a unique upbringing compared to a lot of people at Gonzaga. Both of his parents have Ukrainian roots, and his first spoken words were in Ukrainian. Mr. Oryshkevych didn’t learn English until he entered pre-school, primarily because his mother stayed home with him and his brothers when they were young and she spoke Ukrainian to them. 

“They [Mr. Oryshkevych’s parents] decided that they were going to instill in us right from birth that sense of Ukrainian culture and language,” Mr. Oryshkevych said. 

Mr. Oryshkevych’s parents put him through Ukrainian language school and took him and his brothers to the local Ukrainian Catholic Church. Ukrainian culture is still a part of his life today as he regularly attends the Ukrainian Catholic Church located right by Catholic University. 

“It just helps, you know; it’s not just about the faith stuff, but it’s also hearing the Mass in Ukrainian and singing and keeping up with it that way,” Mr. Oryshkevych said. 

Mr. Oryshkevych expressing his Ukrainian culture in his day to day life impacts the people around him. In 2017, Mr. Oryshkevych and Mr. Patrick Welch, English teacher, went to a conference that focused on the impacts of Russia invading other countries, and they stayed with some of Mr. Oryshkevych’s friends that are also Ukrainian. 

“Mr. Oryshkevych opened my eyes to the extent and closeness of the Ukrainian community in the United States,” Mr. Welch said. “He really opened my eyes to that aspect of a segment of American society that I would have never known existed otherwise.” 

Mr. Oryshkevych grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and most of his middle school graduating class went off to Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, which at the time was located in Wheaton, Md. However, he decided to branch out and visited Gonzaga and loved it. 

“I loved going into D.C., the big city for me as a suburban kid…. It was a different feel from the one hallway grammar school,” Mr. Oryshkevych said. 

As a Gonzaga student, he was a member of the soccer team for all four years, participated in service and went on retreats. He played CYO basketball with a number of his friends, which many current Gonzaga students do, as well. He had an impactful AP United States History teacher who was also the head soccer coach who had a big influence on him; however, when Mr. Oryshkevych graduated, he didn’t yet know that he would be interested in becoming a history teacher himself. He departed for Fordham University not thinking that one day he would return to Eye Street. 

“When I left I never thought I would come back…. My mindset was I’m going to New York, and I’m going to stay there and never come back, and that’s that,” Mr. Oryshkevych said. 

While in college at Fordham University, Mr. Oryshkevych, having spent time as a camp counselor, realized that teaching was in his future. 

“There was a big appeal to working with younger people when I did that [being a camp counselor], and so I thought, all right well, I think you’ve narrowed it down to being a teacher; now it’s a matter of what discipline is it going to be?” Mr. Oryshkevych said. 

He took a couple of history courses his freshman and sophomore years and declared as a history major during his sophomore year. He didn’t have a concentration in a certain area of history; rather, he took history classes that appealed to him. 

Out of college, Mr. Oryshkevych received his first teaching job as a fifth grade teacher and then taught history at St. Peter’s Prep, which is an all-boys Jesuit high school located in New Jersey. At the end of his time there, he realized that he needed a change of scenery. 

“I got to a point where I’m like I need a change – A. And B. – I think it’s time to come home[….] I did something I never thought I would do, which is you know, I came back home,” Mr. Oryshkevych said. 

He returned to Gonzaga in 2014, which he said was the next logical step in his life. Part of why he chose to return to Eye Street was because of his own experience as a student and the Jesuit aspect of the school. The Jesuit motto of “Being a Man for Others” appealed to Mr. Oryshkevych as a student and stuck with him as he matured. He also recognized how his teachers influenced and impacted him when he was a student. 

A student asks Mr. Oryshkevych a question during class. Photo taken by Luke Forde / Photo II

“What better way of being a man for others than to pass that along to future generations of where I was at St. Peter’s in New Jersey, but also, of course, coming back here and then passing along that spirit along to future graduates of Gonzaga,” Mr. Oryshkevych said.  

Mr. Brendan Hartnett, a religion teacher and member of the Gonzaga class of 1997, highlighted some of the ways that Mr. Oryshkevych exemplifies being a man for others. 

“His love shows itself in deeds and in his words, he gives up his time freely,” Mr. Hartnett said. “He gives back to his community by being a model of a guy who’s open, honest, sincere and willing to talk, so he’s a resource that you can go to.” 

The idea of paying it forward was important to Mr. Oryshkevych as he returned to the place where he first learned about becoming a man for and with others. Mr. Oryshkevych is not the only Gonzaga alum to return as teacher and certainly won’t be the last.

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