Hey, Will Maza!
What’s an academic learning facilitator do?
Our second teacher profile doesn’t feature a teacher. And right away you want to ask, “So what do you do, then?”
But first—thank you, Will Maza, for all the years you’ve partnered with us at the Warwick Education Foundation. Along the way, we’ve been happy to award you many innovative education grants. And celebrate the difference they’ve made in the academic performance of Kissel Hill elementary students and all of Warwick.
Now planning his 16th year at Warwick, Will can look back on several of those years as a Kissel Hill teacher. “I’ve taught third, fifth, and sixth grade in this building. But I’ve also coached the junior high basketball team, eighth and ninth grade, as well as coaching the junior high soccer team early in my career.”
About seven years ago, he moved out of the classroom and into his present position. In each Warwick elementary school, teachers and students are supported by a “core team” of four. Besides an academic learning facilitator like Will, the team includes the principal, school counselor, and school psychologist.
“While our responsibilities and roles often overlap,” Will says, “my main focus is academics. What I do can be viewed as the academic counterpart to a school counselor, who supports social and emotional needs.
“My goal each year is simple. I strive to work with our teachers, students, and parents to design a “just-right” learning path for each and every Kissel Hill student.”
Will’s own learning path began in the small town of Pennsburg, east of us in Montgomery County. He comes from a long line of teachers. “One of my greatest influences was my grandfather, who was also a teacher and a coach. I spent a whole lot of time with him growing up, and although I didn’t recognize it then, he taught me not just how the world works but also to be kind to others and treat everyone with respect.”
In elementary school, his favorite teacher was Mr. Wayne, “the first male teacher I had—the first person that really made learning fun, made me want to come to school every day to figure out what we’re going to do next, what activities he’d planned for us. Awesome teacher—once I started, I aspired to be like him.”
Another positive influence was “sports’ camps, where I worked with children and decided that was something I wanted to pursue as a career.” To acquire a solid preparation for teaching, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Millersville University and his master’s at Penn State, focusing on curriculum and instruction.
Curiouser and curiouser.
As we’ve gotten to know Will over the years, our appreciation of him has made us “curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice says. So we were delighted when he gave us a video interview and answered a few of our questions.
Q. What’s changed in education since you began at Warwick?
Approaches will shift, Will says, as educational trends “cycle through.” What he’s seen recently—besides the dramatic challenges of working through his first pandemic —“is the increased focus on teaching the whole child. Beyond the academic emphasis on test scores and data, we’re now more aware of the social and emotional well-being of a child. So we’re teaching the kids soft skills as well.”
“What I like most about teaching or working in education is the relationships and connections you make with kids. Without those, I’m not sure I’d continue to work in education. I think that’s the main reason I’m here—to just build those relationships and see the kids succeed because of the connections they’re making here at school.”
Q. How do you stay on top of best practices in education?
“It helps to keep an open mind and communicate with others who have spent time studying in certain areas. That’s how I think education operates in general — getting with the right people and having good conversations about how to move your craft forward.”
Will Maza’s Big Dream for Warwick.
Q. If you could wave a magic wand and have the Warwick Education Foundation grant you one wish what would it be?
“I think the Warwick Education Foundation has come through on most of my wishes so far. They have been awesome in supporting the activities and projects and programs we do here at Kissel Hill.
“But just thinking outside the box, my big wish would be leveling the technology playing field in our district. Give all the families internet access and computer access at home in addition to having it at school.”
That’s one big ask. Anybody care to step up?
Q. When you’re not working, what do you like to spend your day doing?
“Anytime I’m outdoors, I’m happy. I like to fish and hunt—anything where you’re outside. Especially with my kids and my wife. So whenever I’m not working, most likely I’m doing something outside. The farther into the woods, the better.”
Q. Which books are you reading now?
“It’s kind of hard to spend down-time reading during the school year. But I recently read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Really inspirational. And I’ve been working through a biography of Fred Rogers called The Good Neighbor. And it’s a good read.”
Q. How would your friends describe you?
“I hope my friends would say that I’m someone who is dependable and reliable but also fun to be around. I have a great group of friends, and we spend a lot of time together. And I think our kids and our friends’ kids are enjoying growing up together.”
“I hope students moving on from Kissel Hill remember the connection I’ve made with them. And understand that my job here was to make sure they’re moving in the direction of their hopes and dreams. So as long as I do that, I’m happy.”
Q. What questions have we not asked you that you’d like to answer?
I can’t think of other questions I’d like to answer but I will take this opportunity to thank the Warwick Education Foundation for all that you do to support our school and our students. A big part of what I have done here at Kissel Hill has been because of the financial backing that you guys have been able to provide with some of the projects and programs we’ve put together. So for all that you do to keep us moving forward and accessing the things we might not have had otherwise, thank you very much.
It’s August 2021 as we’re posting this blog. School’s out for the summer, the community is getting vaccinated, and life is opening up again. We didn’t ask Will Maza what his plans were for the summer. But we wouldn’t be surprised if he’s deep in the woods somewhere. And deep into rejuvenating himself for one more amazing year.