Mr. Wander plans retirement after 38 years of teaching


Keenan Schember

Mr. Wander explores the laws of physics with complex scenarios and drawings.

Physics class has been considered one of the most demanding but rewarding classes at Benilde St. Margaret’s. Its rigorous curriculum is matched by the positive teaching style of Mr. Jim Wander, who, to the disappointment of seniors to come, will be retiring at the end of this school year.

Having taught at Benilde for a total of 38 years, Mr. Wander takes the term veteran teacher to a high degree. Before coming to BSM, Mr. Wander was considering studying medicine at St. Johns University, but as a junior began a work study program as an auxiliary teacher at St. Johns Prep, a program which he stayed in for two years, teaching algebra and geometry. “The more I got involved the more I realized that I really enjoyed teaching high school students. When a position opened up at BSM my supervising teacher recommended me to come and apply,” Mr. Wander said.

In addition to teaching, Mr. Wander has been an integral part of the athletic community each year he has taught at BSM. During his first 4 years, he coached track and wrestling, but stopped with the birth of his son. After a short break from coaching to transition into his new life as a father, Mr. Wander got back into coaching in 1980 when the women’s cross-country coach took over swimming. “I love watching kids grow in their interest, whether that be an interest for physics or cross country. When kids develop a passion for physics in my classroom and then go on to pursue that passion, that is the most rewarding thing as a teacher,” Mr.Wander said.

Currently, Mr. Wander can be identified by his signature lab coat, as well as his vast collection of medical scrubs that his wife, a registered nurse, brings home from work. Another of Wander’s various trademarks are his elaborate stick figure drawings. Although physics students often marvel at Mr. Wander’s art work, he remains humble about his drawing abilities. “I want to draw my stick figures to represent the real world,” Mr. Wander said.

Though Mr. Wander is giving up his time in the classroom, he plans to continue coaching girls’ cross country and Nordic skiing. Junior member of the BSM girls’ cross-country team Mary Pat Ross recalls memories of Mr. Wander from her first day of practice as a junior high runner. “I had never run before in my life, he stayed with me the whole time and he encouraged me to make it all the way around the lake. I honestly wouldn’t have made it throught the year without his encouragement,” Ross said.

Mr. Wander’s class is known for being as hard and rewarding as his relentless cross-country workouts. For students who pay close attention in Mr. Wander’s classes, his jokes and dry humor make physics bearable. “He is easily one of the best teachers I have ever had and he is incredibly brilliant. My favorite memory from physics class and Mr. Wander in general would have to be all his little physics jokes he’d randomly throw into every lecture, they were really funny and unexpected and livened up the class,” 2013 alum Matt Ambre said.

Along with recent graduates, Mr. Wander has touched the lives of decades of BSM alumni, including current Spanish teacher Ms. Rachel Tondryk. “He was one of my favorite teachers when I was a student here and is an inspiration to me in my own teaching career. He always had the most interesting lectures, stories, and scenarios to problem-solve, and not to mention the best stick figure drawings I have ever seen,” Ms. Tondryk said.

In his retirement, Mr. Wander will enjoy having more time to spend with his family, along with working on projects around the house, woodworking, and working on cars. Mr. Wander plans on volunteering regularly for Habitat for Humanity, a charity that builds houses for people in poverty. Wander has had experiences working through Habitat for Humanity over his summer breaks but is looking forward to dedicating more time to volunteering. “I’ll miss the students, but getting away from the constant routine and having some free time will be nice,” Wander said.