Columbia Heights, Minnesota
By Brenda Sanchez, iLander Staff Reporter
After teaching for 24 years, North Park’s third-through-fifth grade science specialist Stanley Mraz has received this year’s Teacher of the Year award.
Mraz was nominated in late winter out of a pool of 16 other candidates.
"It meant a lot to me to be in the company of so many great educators," he said.
He first started teaching at an international school in Madrid, Spain, in 1988. He came to Columbia Heights in 1991.
Mraz was extremely surprised, honored and humbled to even be nominated.
"When I look at all of the Teacher of the Year nominees for this year, I know that they are each as deserving as I am of the award," he said.
Mraz wanted to become a teacher for two main reasons, he said. One is a love for working with kids, and the other is because he loves to see the excitement in their faces when they discover, learn or meet a goal.
"I want to make a positive difference in our world," Mraz said. "Educating the future is the most powerful and effective way to make this happen," Mraz said.
"An educator," he said, "is someone who is committed to creating a positive learning environment that enables all students to find some level of success.”
In order to be a good educator, in his opinion, “you need to be able to create positive relationships, show relevance or meaning to the work that the students are doing and motivate the students to want to become lifelong learners.”
Mraz believes in the value of education and the potential that the kids can bring.
However, there’s always a challenge in teaching. He said he knows that students face a lot of life challenges and issues outside of school. Some kids have an unstable home life or face economic difficulties. Although he can’t control that, he said he just hopes that educators are able to point them in the positive direction. He advises students to always have a good attitude.
"Opportunities are created by attitude and we should attempt with all our heart and soul to maintain positive attitudes," he said.
A quote he uses to describe this is by Winston Churchill: "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
Following the award, he has received a lot of e-mails full of compliments. He said he thinks educators are, in general, a very special group of people.
"We are not in this profession for the money or recognition," he said. "We are here to make a positive difference for all the students that we work with."
The most rewarding part of this experience for Mraz is the fact that he gets time to reflect and appreciate his profession. He said he hopes to continue developing critical thinkers and problem-solvers who will make a positive difference for the world.
"To strive to reach their potential and to be a lifelong learner who makes the world a better place," he said. "These are the same goals that I have for myself."
(School Board Member Missy Lee presents Stan Mraz with his Teacher of the Year award at a recent School Board Meeting. Photo by Gabe Hewitt.)