By: Christine Infantolino & James Rizzo
Previously known as Mr. Toncic, Jason Toncic upgraded his title to Dr. Toncic in December. Arguing a thesis involving language, Dr. Toncic put his argument forward after years of studying. However, this process was nothing close to easy. When talking to Dr. Toncic about choosing his thesis topic, he said, “At first, I was planning on doing artificial intelligence but then the pandemic happened and everything was modified. I didn’t know when schools would open, but the first week I started teaching was productive because everyone had their cameras on and were participating. As time went on, students became less-interested and only interacted through the chat feature on Zoom. So, I started to save those chat transcripts and I found if you take away everything, desks, the buildings, and everything, the only thing left is language.”
Dr. Toncic has shown first hand that persevering through difficult situations like the pandemic pay off in the end; when he got his doctorate, he hugged his wife and said, “We did it!”
In addition to the challenges presented by the pandemic, Dr. Toncic faced several obstacles of his own. Balancing three children in the process, being “busy” was a massive understatement. On top of that, Dr. Toncic received the unfortunate news that his long term mentor, Dr. Michele Knobel, had passed away. Upon hearing the news, he described it as:“really hard. Last year I learned that she had cancer and was supposed to be given a treatment to give her more time. The treatment failed and during one of my classes I found out she had passed away. It was extremely hard to hold myself together through that school day. I was going to the library every single day to try and finish while she was alive.”
Dr. Toncic defended his thesis a few days later and although his mind was distracted by the sad news, he put forth a strong performance. His tenacity to keep pushing helped him achieve this academic honor, and Dr. Knobel was no doubt looking down on him and cheering him on through the last leg.
Dr. Toncic may have earned his current distinction, but he is not resting on his laurels. Currently, he is teaching a college level class at Montclair State in addition to his classes at JCHS. His JCHS students can count on him to continue to bring his expertise and enthusiasm to the classroom and encourage them to engage at the highest level in the learning process.