Jon Mazzio: Encouraging students to take risks and supporting their growth
Jon Mazzio of Northfield High School is an educator who truly believes in the power of building relationships with his students. He lays strong foundations of trust, which make his students feel comfortable exploring math, taking risks, and growing.
Jon Mazzio has been an educator for the last eight years and first found the inspiration to teach when observing his own teachers at school. He saw the huge impact they had on their students and thought: "What better way to help boost the next generation?" And so began his teaching career. Alongside teaching math, Jon also coaches cross country and track, having pursued this while at college himself, and loves nothing more than giving back to his community.
Understanding how much students want to see the practical applications of math and always seeking to find new ways to engage them with class content, Jon is currently enrolled in a master's program at CU Denver, working towards a STEM degree. He explained that after coming back to school following a year of remote learning, getting students excited about math is more important than ever. He's also found his ability to build strong relationships with his students has helped students feel more comfortable returning to the classroom and improved their willingness to try new things.
One way Jon shows his students that he listens to and cares about them is by really engaging with their interests outside of the classroom. When doing class warm-ups, he asks students what they did at the weekend or what they're looking forward to; he then incorporates their answers into word problems and math questions. "That's how you build a positive class environment where they trust you and they're willing to work hard for you, make mistakes, and stay motivated."
Jon also makes sure to preach that making mistakes is normal and important. He said this helps break down barriers and encourages students to take more risks rather than be afraid of failure. "Logistically, what that looks like is getting students to go up to the board, getting them to work in groups, and sharing what they've found so that they have a comfort level with their peers and they're not afraid to share their answers and strategies." Jon then makes sure to highlight their new strategies and celebrate student triumphs.
Photo courtesy of Jon Mazzio