Learning

ONFE’s Volunteers in Education Spotlight: Henry Starzynski

ONFE is incredibly fortunate to have a diverse team of compassionate, caring volunteers who bring a range of backgrounds and skills to their respective roles supporting students and teachers within the OCDSB. We would like to introduce you to a volunteer who is passionate about helping enhance the math skills of the students he works with. We are pleased to introduce Henry Starzynski.  

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I volunteer with ONFE in Gr 6 math. So here is a question for you to answer! 

  • I’ve seen 8 decades 
  • I have had my birthday this year 
  • What is my minimum age? (Answer will be below 🙂 )

I was born in Oshawa, went to school at UWaterloo majoring in Math (Computer Science). I moved to Ottawa in 1984 to work at Bell Canada, and I spent my working career there retiring in 2017. Like any large organization, it had its great experiences, and ones I’d rather forget. A quick story on how I used math to solve a major issue at work! I was in charge of one of our data networks. One day, switches started to fail across my network. It was a mystery. We had engineering support, and the vendor’s help. No one could figure out what was happening. About 6 hours into this, I pumped some numbers into a spreadsheet, and announced to the cast of 100s that I had the answer to the failures – all switches failing were last ‘rebooted’ 776s prior. The vendor laughed at me. I was right. Never doubt the power of math. 

My greatest passion is cycling.  I figure in my work career, for which I mostly cycle commuted, I did well over 100,000 kms over those 33 years. I’d rather be biking 

My other passions are cooking, and gardening.   

I’m married to Lee Ann (also a UWaterloo Math grad, but we did not meet at university), and we have 2 children, neither of which went into math-related careers! 

2.            What made you decide to volunteer with the Volunteers in Education Program?  

One of the things I did while working at Bell was to give a lecture at Carleton U 4th year engineering. As I was retiring, we had a lunch with the current prof and past prof. The past prof, David Falconer, told me how much he loved tutoring in the schools. Well! That sounded like something to get involved in.  The bonus part – I would not be in charge of the class. 

3.            What is your personal philosophy on life? 

Make a positive difference in the world.

4.            If you had a time machine, what year would you travel to and why? 

Going forward, 2038. Computer people should understand why. 

Going backwards, 1000 AD.  Really, who would not want to have been a Viking? 

5.            For 24 hours, you can steal credit for any great piece of art, song, film, book etc. which one would you claim?   

Song – If I had a Rocket Launcher (Bruce Cockburn) 

6.            What is your favorite hidden gem in Ottawa? (Can be a park, restaurant, store, etc.) 

Hmm.  I have a weak spot for bakeries. La Maison du Kouign-Amann in Kanata is fabulous. I would say it is tied with Fletcher Wildlife Gardens.  

7.            What was the single greatest lesson of this past year and what did it teach you about yourself? 

I am tempted to say ‘make sure you always have enough toilet paper on hand at home’. Seriously, for me, the greatest lesson has been to be adaptable and patient.  


I was born July 1959. I’ve ‘seen’ the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s and now the 20s. That makes me 62. 

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