Jon Hartquist Strives to Inspire Students

By Billie Mandelbaum

Gathered in Room 152 is a group of twenty-five high-school students listening to their teacher Jon Hartquist. This morning, the history class is discussing the world’s population crisis. Every student is participating. Not a single teenager has the all too familiar blank and bored expression found on your average teenager.

“Hey, Hartquist,” says a young man wearing a large hoody-sweatshirt and baggy jeans stands in the doorway.

“Hey man what’s up?” Hartquist replies, not agitated at all by the disruption. Hartquist walks towards the doorway and begins to have a short conversation with what turns out to be his former student. The casual, laid-back chat lasts only a minute and does not resemble the average teacher-student dialogue. Instead it appears to be just two teenagers discussing their day. Hartquist is admired for his approachable personality by all of his students.

 “His relaxed teaching style makes you feel comfortable in the classroom, which helps you learn,” said sophomore and former student, Sarah Moses.

Growing up, the Marin native never aspired to be a teacher. “Like any high school student, I never dreamed of becoming a teacher but I always liked the feeling of teaching someone,” he said . After graduating from Marin Catholic, Hartquist attended the University of Oregon. Before graduating from college Hartquist signed a music contract with Island Records. “For a few years, I produced some records but after a while I decided it was time to grow up. I went back to school and got my teaching credential,” he said. Little did he know at the time that through his new job he would still be able to showcase his love for music.

Hartquist began his first teaching job in 1999 in Portland, Oregon. Although he liked his students in Oregon he wanted to come back to his old stomping ground. In 2002 he arrived at Tam. Hartquist was excited for the opportunity to be a part of the Tam community. “I’d always wanted to work at Tam. I’d always heard good things and it’s a part of a great school district,” he said.

During his first year of teaching at Tam, Hartquist formed a two-man band with English teacher Michael Lavezzo. The two can be seen throughout the day; during breaks, lunches and even after school playing their guitars together.

“Lavezzo’s a good song maker-upper. He pieces together songs from the stories we hear from the lunch room crew,” Hartquist said referring to the original songs written about his and Lavezzo’s lunches with fellow faculty members. The “Hartquist-Lavezzo” band has showcased their skills for students and teachers during Tam’s Multicultural Assembly and the Tam’s Got Talent competition.

Along with sharing his musical passion with students he is also known around campus as a “spandex warrior.” Hartquist is an avid bicyclist and advisor of Tam’s Mountain Biking Team. Almost every morning he awakes in the wee hours of the morning to bike to Mill Valley from his home in Novato. “I like the idea of getting my exercise done early. I like to get home so I can spend time with my family and hang out with my kids.”

However, his before school bike-riding has backfired in the past. Hartquist remembers the time when he was teaching summer school and arrived at school to only discover that he had forgotten to pack a pair of pants to change into. He was stuck walking around the school in his skin-tight, black spandex bike shorts. Luckily for the teacher, one of his students, for some unknown reason had worn two pairs of shorts to school that day, and lent a pair to him.

When talking with Hartquist, his passion for history and culture is always evident. As a child, he traveled a lot and lived in Saudi Arabia for three years. He enjoyed the opportunity of becoming immersed in a completely different culture. Hartquist shares his unique insights with students, differentiating his class from the other history class down the hallway.

“I want my students to love history, and love what’s going on in the world. I want to bring energy to teaching history so my students care and like it,” he said. His energy is something all of his students appreciate, which is hard to do considering History is such a love-it or hate-it subject.

The clichéd saying, “As one door closes another one opens” rings true in Hartquist’s life. He gave up on his aspirations of becoming the next big rock star to become a teacher, a job that could not suit him better. “Teaching is the perfect job for me. It keeps me young. It’s a great job,” he said.

Even the bad days at work are not that miserable for Hartquist. “It’s pretty rare that I ever come home in a bad mood,” Hartquist said. “if I sold insurance I’d be in a bad mood.”