Michael Horvath Coaches Students to Challenge Themselves in All Arenas of Life

As Dean of Tenth Grade and the Director of Athletics, Michael Horvath guides students to strive for excellence in the classroom, throughout their work on the immersive MYP Personal Project, and in their athletic endeavors as scholar-athletes.

As Dean of Tenth Grade and the Director of Athletics, Michael Horvath guides students to strive for excellence in the classroom, throughout their work on the immersive MYP Personal Project, and in their athletic endeavors as scholar-athletes. We sat down to learn more about the lifelong sports enthusiast and how he plays multiple positions on the Dwight team! 

Please share your journey from sports marketing to coaching and to becoming a dean. 

I've always wanted to make sure that sports is a part of my life in some capacity. I wasn't exactly sure what that would look like, but I had extensive experience in athletics that I hoped would drive my career. I took a sports marketing job first, and traveled all over the country, managing sporting events for clients. I was on the road traveling more than 75 days a year! Traveling that often became daunting, and I also knew that I wanted to use my sports expertise to coach or teach. I went back to school and earned my master's in teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Not long after graduating, I joined Dwight as a physical and health education teacher. I taught for three years, while also coaching JV boys baseball and basketball, before becoming a Dean. It was an interesting transition for me to step out of the classroom and off the court to assume additional responsibilities as a Dean. As a teacher and coach, you have a finite amount of time with students each day. As a Dean, I got to dive into the experience of affecting a child's whole day from start to finish, and I find it to be very rewarding. I also enjoy collaborating with other Deans, faculty, and administrators at Dwight, who share important responsibilities in caring for our students.

What sparked your interest in sports?

Sports have always been in my life. I played on team sports starting when I was four years old. In high school, I played ice hockey, football, and baseball, and went on to Lehigh University, where I played Division IA football. Even today, I play softball, hockey, and golf in recreational leagues or on my own. I'm thrilled to have my passion for sports driving my career once again, as the Director of Athletics — it's a perfect fit!

As a high-energy individual, sports have always grounded me and provided a nice escape from other aspects of life. Sports for me, and for many people, is a sanctuary. When you're practicing or competing, there's nothing else you can be doing in that moment — there's nothing else to focus on besides playing to the best of your ability and trying to improve your skills. To work hard with that laser focus toward reaching a goal, whether as an individual or team member, is a beautiful thing!

What is your educational philosophy?

My philosophy evolves daily, as I do more and more research and continue to educate myself. I think it's important for educators to be constant learners. We should always be humble and understand that we don't know everything. This applies to students as well. The most important qualities students and teachers can have are humility, a willingness to work hard, and patience. And we should always seek to challenge ourselves!

What do you like about being an educator in an IB School and at Dwight in particular?

What I like the most about both is the culture of international mindedness. I grew up in Greenwich, CT, where I attended an all-boys private school. There wasn't much diversity in terms of culture or experience within our student body. The IB naturally draws in a diverse community, as does Dwight, and it is a privilege to be a part of it. Here, we have the opportunity to meet and talk with people from all over the world and that's an education in itself!

As the Dean of Grade 10, you guide students all year, but the Personal Project is the culminating experience in the IB MYP. Please share your thoughts about this process.

Grade 10 is my favorite grade because of the MYP Personal Project! I don't know of any other curriculum outside of the IB that allows high school students to so thoroughly investigate something of their own choosing for such an extended period of time.

I was a psychology major as an undergrad student, so I'm really interested in what makes people tick. The Personal Project gets to the heart of that. Students have eight months to do a deep dive into a topic of their choice; sometimes they even discover that their passion lies somewhere other than they had originally thought. Motivating students during those eight months is similar to motivating an athlete. I push them to challenge themselves, and question how they can make the project better, take it further, or think about it in a new and different way. Sometimes projects end up in a very different place from where they started, morphing into something just as amazing, but with a new spin. No matter the outcome, students truly flourish and further develop their spark of genius during this time. In the spring, they present their finished projects to our community at the MYP Personal Project Exhibition, which is the culminating experience in the MYP. It's always a great success and a wonderful learning experience for each student.

What are you looking forward to this school year from an athletic point of view?

I'm excited for the growth of the program, especially after our many successes last year! We've already received high registration numbers in all sports, and I'm delighted that more and more students are pulling each other onto teams. Our sophomore and junior classes are very athletic, and I'm looking forward to seeing them step into important leadership roles on their teams this year. At the end of the day, I look forward to seeing students try their hardest, come together as a team, and support each other on and off the field.

What makes Dwight's athletic program special?

It's unique that our scholar-athlete tradition is so deeply rooted in the School and in the Spahn family. Chancellor Stephen Spahn became an All-American basketball player at Dartmouth College and achieved several scoring records that stand to this day. He followed his father, Dr. M.C. Spahn, who was also an All-American basketball player before turning pro. [Dr. Spahn played for several years while earning his graduate degree before assuming the role of headmaster at Franklin School, which later became Anglo-American School and joined forces with Dwight in 1993].

This past spring at our Varsity athletic banquet, Chancellor Spahn spoke about how close Dwight athletics is to his heart and shared stories about past coaches and scholar-athletes. It's inspiring for our current scholar-athletes to have such a sincere sports fan in their Chancellor! Our program is also fortunate to have such an exceptional home base at the Dwight School Athletic Center.

What's your personal spark of genius?

The three things that drive me every day and that I consider to be my sparks of genius are sports, my family, and the pursuit to understand how and why people do what they do.

What is a little-known fact about you?

I visited 42 states in four years when I was working in sports marketing.

Fortunately for Dwight, Michael decided to stay put in New York!


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