Teacher Feature: Tim Zavacki


Tim Zavacki

“My grandfather purchased a dilapidated Ford Model A Station Wagon and restored it from the ground up,” said Zavacki. “After owning it for 40 years, he knew I loved it and the memories I had with him. He decided that he would give it to me.”

Technology teacher Tim Zavacki is a Jack-of-all-trades and a man with many interests who brings a variety of skills that help his students carve their career paths.

Zavacki, a 2001 graduate of the College of NJ (TCNJ), graduated with a Bachelor’s in Technological Studies and Technology Education and went back to study at Gratz College for a Master’s in Education in 2011. These degrees  have allowed him to teach a variety of  classes, such as Wood Manufacturing, Woodcarving, Foundations of Electronics, Foundations of Civil Engineering and Basic Home Maintenance, since becoming a teacher in 2001.

Even so, Zavacki said his own career path has branched into opportunities he had not originally planned.

“I took a lot of other classes at TCNJ that were in the communication area, such as television and radio production, hoping I would be a teacher of communications doing something with TV, video or radio,” he said. “Since I have a NJ Industrial Arts Certification with Technology Education Endorsement, I can teach a wide array of things, from computers, communication classes, graphic arts, printing and publishing, to welding, automotive, engines, woodshop, construction, metalworking and lapidary.”

In fact, while Zavacki said he enjoys teaching, he did not originally plan to go into teaching at all, much less construction-oriented courses.

“I did not want to be a teacher at first when I went to TCNJ, but it grew on me as I was in my major,” he said. “I did my student teaching in TV Production at Ocean Township High School in Oakhurst, NJ, so I was hoping to find a teaching job in that area,” he said. “When I was looking for a teaching job, there were only technology education jobs available and none of them were looking for a TV teacher.  So I took what I could get so that I would have a job.”

Zavacki credits his grandfather, a former industrial manager at Rahway State Prison and Trenton State Prison, as the catalyst who introduced him to and got him interested in cars and tinkering with things.

“He made things with the inmates and taught them how to use the equipment there to make things for the state buildings, so he was kind of a teacher in some form,” he said. “He was a handyman who knew everything and when I was over his house, we would work on projects around the yard or in the garage, so I took an interest in making  and fixing things.”

In his free time, Zavacki has had some cool experiences and hobbies. 

In 2008, he was on HGTV on a kitchen remodeling show called Spice Up My Kitchen. At Hillsborough High School, where he taught from 2002 through 2015, he used to coach baseball, leading them to a State Championship in 2005. 

Zavacki also has an interest in cars — specifically Model A Ford Cars from 1928 to 1931. This interest  led him to running an international  group called the “Woody Wagons” for enthusiasts of the Model A Station Wagon and other wood- bodied cars from that era. He is a member of the Lehigh Valley Model A Club and works with others to restore 1928 to 1931 Ford Model A’s, ultimately driving them around attending car shows. 

Zavacki said his favorite part of teaching is seeing students make things, especially when they graduate and reach out to him afterwards since it shows he “made a difference.”

“I enjoy making things with the students and having the students walk away with an artifact that they can say that they made it,” he said.  “It is those skills that are lifelong that will stay with the students. And I love seeing alumni who say, ‘Mr. Z, I still have that “thing” we made!’”

For students interested in pursuing a trades-based career, Zavacki  had some practical, yet sage, advice.

“Make things. build things. Tinker with things.  Take things apart that don’t work anymore to see how they work,” he said.  “Whether it be Engineering, Woodshop or Art, be good with working with your hands and learn everything you can from people because your knowledge can never be taken away from you.”

Most importantly, he advised, “Force yourself to learn something new that is out of your comfort zone.”