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Dawson math teacher is at the top of his trivia game

May, 2010

In 2000, Dawson College mathematics teacher Ivan Gombos received a call from a friend asking him whether he wanted to resurrect the Reach for the Top Inter-Collegiate Competitions. He’s been running it ever since.

Reach for the Top is a general knowledge game like Jeopardy!. Open, short and “Who am I” questions cover geography, history, sports, television, physics and other subjects.

Every year, especially in May, when the competition has its finals, Gombos liaises with 400 schools, including about 200 in Ontario. Reach for the Top is a Canada-wide competition, except for Newfoundland and Labrador.

The finals will be held in Toronto and the event will be televised on the Learning Channel.

“The college has been supportive,” Gombos said. “Student Services fund the refreshments and provide the transportation.” Dawson College won in 2007, and last year’s winner was the Marianopolis team. “Dawson’s pretty dominant, but in the first year, Loyola won,” he said.

Occasionally Gombos, who is on “progressive retirement,” shares the role of Alex Trebek and says he is thinking of moving on.

Ivan Gombos is considering passing the Reach for the Top torch. Photo: Matthew Rettino

“After 10 years, I might pass it on,” he said. One of the reasons for this, he said, was because of his involvement with the U.S. National Academic Quiz Tournaments, a similar program. When Gombos first came to Dawson, he was 23. “While registering, they asked if I had any overdue library books. I was nearly as young as my students.”

Once, he taught an “A” student, an 83-year-old with a bachelor’s degree. “I’ve had a wide variety of students,” Gombos said.

In the 2001-2002 academic year. Gombos won a Teacher Excellence Award.

“Instead of rambling on, I like to solicit questions from the class,” he said about his classroom methodology. “If they don’t ask the right question when a question should be asked, I go into the class area and I ask myself a question.” He chuckles. “I have a conversation with myself.”

Cliffhangers are also useful. “Before I want to introduce a topic, I don’t elaborate on it,” he said.

“I say, ‘Sorry, I’ll give it to you next time.’ I try to make it like a soap opera.”



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