The Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association of Greater Austin

Joseph Oleniczak

Liberal Arts and Science Academy

Austin Independent School District


Joseph Oleniczak teaches Biotechnology and Research Internship courses at LASA – Liberal Arts and Science Academy.  These courses are dual credit with Austin Community College, so he’s also an adjunct professor at ACC.

As we select our winner each year, we look for someone who exemplifies the Phi Beta Kappa motto Love of Learning is the guide of life, and Mr. Oleniczak certainly qualifies! He is continually augmenting his college and graduate work through his research, from conferences, and by working as a research scientist during the summer with a small biotechnology firm. 

He’s been teaching for 18 years now, and he finds it an exciting job, as each year he welcomes a new group of learners, figures out how to help each one of them succeed, and then reflects back with them at the end of the year on what they’ve accomplished.

During the pandemic, he maintained close ties with his students and had them do hands on lab activities. He taught classes virtually in large groups and small groups, but also had students come to campus to pick up lab kits, gather specimens at home, and return the lab kits. After the kits were processed, students would do the analysis online – individually and in small groups, getting a good lab experience in a hybrid scheme. 

Mr. Oleniczak seeks out learning opportunities and shares what he learns with his students and his colleagues. In 2019, he won a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching which allowed him to travel to Finland for six months to do research to understand why Finland is so successful in its secondary technical education program for female students.

He has written curriculum that is used at the district, state, and national levels. He gives many presentations to provide professional development to other teachers on a wide variety of topics. He is currently the Principal Investigator on a National Science Foundation Grant with which he is establishing the first of its kind DNA Sequencing and Genomics facility on a high school campus. Beyond all that, he earned two patents in the last two years!

We are pleased to recognize Joseph Oleniczak as our 2021 Teaching Excellence Award Winner.

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