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This Instructor Rocks

Troy Dvorak, MCTC Psychology instructorTroy Dvorak has been known to let his hair down on occasion.

The MCTC psychology instructor and recently-published author is also a self-taught drummer, guitar student and a self-proclaimed fan of 80s rock and hair metal. Usually dressed in a suit, you wouldn’t know it by looking at him.

This year Troy celebrates a decade of teaching at MCTC. His years of teaching and practicing psychology have made him a campus favorite—and we have his family to thank for that.

“I was born in the Twin Cities, but spent 26 years of my life in Ontario,” said Troy. “I’ve always felt like I have two homes. I’ve been Canadianized.”

In 2001, Troy’s niece was born, and he was named her godparent. “I found myself making trips from Canada to the Twin Cities every month,” he said. “It was like I had two homes.” After more than a year of frequent visits, he took the plunge: He sold his house, quit his job and immigrated back to his hometown in the Twin Cities. “The transition was difficult,” he admitted. “For the first year, I just helped my father with his business. I went from a career of counseling teens, parents and families to building wooden pallets.”

But psychology remained his passion.

Troy Dvorak, MCTC Psychology instructorTroy’s foray into teaching began at Metro State University, where he started by teaching a single psychology course. As his experience grew, so did his reach—and his commute. “At one point I was teaching and tutoring at Metro State, Hennepin Tech, MCTC and Inver Hills,” he said. “I was driving all over the world to make a living, and there were gaps. I still built a lot of pallets.”

These days, Troy does a lot less commuting, and a lot more preparing his students for the world. “Part of what I love about MCTC is the diversity,” he said. “It helps us all to learn perspective, and from there, critical thinking. It’s like a built-in psychology lesson.”

This year, Troy has several things to celebrate: In addition to the 10 year anniversary of teaching at MCTC, he has recently published a book, Psychological Keys to Student Success.

“A few years ago MCTC began to explore some of the factors behind student success, retention and graduation,” he said. “I decided to approach this topic from a standpoint I was familiar with.” In his book, Troy draws on his years of teaching and his clinical psychology background in order to address topics of motivation, goals, interest, confidence and culture in the scope of student success. He emphasizes an individual’s personal thinking skills and strengths as key factors to their success.

“Metacognition is an awareness of one’s own thought processes. I incorporate it in my classroom,” said Troy. “I talk to students about their beliefs about classes and school, about their expectations and how those influence their approach to school, and about the impact our attributions have on subsequent feelings and behavior related to school. Not a day goes by where the Psychological Keys to Student Success don't inform my teaching.”

Troy Dvorak, MCTC Psychology instructorTroy is not alone in using this approach to students—other instructors use the practice of metacognition to walk their students through a thought exercise, and the MCTC Mathematics department is one of the few campuses in the state utilizing Statway curriculum to utilize metacognition and bring students who otherwise wouldn’t consider math their strong point up to speed with their peers. “My hope is that my work can be a starting point for an informed, unified approach to student retention, success and graduation across our campus and our programs.”

Troy looks ahead to the coming semester with enthusiasm. “I don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “My goal is to see my students get a rigorous education, because everything students take has to transfer. I’m as committed to their success as they are, and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. MCTC is where I want to be. This is home.”

Stop by Troy’s class on Halloween and you may see him with his hair down. Ask nicely and he’ll even refer you to some bands he likes to rock out to.

Published February 2015


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