Kent teachers award educator of the year

Elise Franco

Each year, five outstanding Portage County teachers are awarded the Coleman Foundation Portage County Educator of the Year Award. This year, two of those five spend their teaching days here in Kent.

Jonathan Secaur, a high school physics teacher at Theodore Roosevelt High School, was awarded High School Educator of the Year.

Secaur has been teaching for 35 years, and 29 of those have been spent at Roosevelt.

John Buchanan, administrative assistant at the Coleman Foundation, said Secaur is popular among teachers and students alike.

“He most definitely serves as a mentor to other teachers as far as someone who loves his job,” he said. “And he wants to connect with students to see that they want to learn.”

Buchanan said he didn’t know the recipients before the award was given to them, but now that he does, he is sure Secaur loves life and does everything he can to pass that on to his students.

“One of the biggest things I can visualize is that he really wants his students to have a smile on their face while they’re learning,” he said. “Jon always has a smile.”

Secaur said he knew he had been nominated by fellow science teacher Chris Carman, but he had no idea when the awards would be announced or that he would win.

“I found out in January during a surprise assembly when the principal called everyone down together,” he said. “I didn’t think anything about it, and then a colleague got up and started talking about the award and announced that I had won.”

Secaur was stunned and pleased after he heard the news, and he has enjoyed all of the congratulatory letters and e-mails he’s received because of it.

“I’ve gotten a lot of nice congratulations calls and cards and letters from former students who have heard about it, and that’s been very pleasant,” he said.

Keeping his students interested in the class material isn’t something that is difficult for Secaur to do, which is what makes him stand out to others. Buchanan said this is one reason he was chosen for the award and why so many friends, family, colleagues and students came out to support him the day of the awards ceremony.

“I tell terrible jokes, but mostly I am interested in myself and what I do,” Secaur said. “If an individual is genuinely interested in what he or she is teaching, it just rubs off on students.”

The other local winner, Patricia Mazzer, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. A former teacher at Brown Middle School in Ravenna, Mazzer now teaches at Kent State in the AT&T technology classroom, where she trains other local teachers to incorporate audio-visual and other technology into their classrooms.

She taught seventh-grade math and science at Brown Middle School for 30 years before retiring and taking a position at Kent State.

Buchanan said Mazzer’s nomination came from Kent State professor Dale Cook.

“He’s a highly respected scientist at Kent State, and he wouldn’t send in a nomination unless he believed in it,” he said.

Cook has known Mazzer since 1998, when she first began working in the AT&T classroom.

“Pat is an outstanding example of a person who is a lifelong learner,” he said. “She is continuing to learn with the teachers and students she works with here.”

Even though Mazzer was retired before she came to Kent State, Cook said she continued to learn everything should could about the AT&T classroom.

“She’s got a genuine kind of interest in the people who come into the classroom, to make sure they maximize their learning here,” he said.

Mazzer hasn’t always wanted to be a teacher, however. She said she wanted to be a secretary but decided to join the Future Teachers Association during high school.

“I really loved science and the outdoors,” she said. “It just naturally evolved into me wanting to go to college, and teaching seemed like a good option.”

Unlike Secaur, Mazzer said she had no idea she had been nominated for the honor until after she had already won.

“I was at a staff meeting with all my colleagues, and they’d received word that I was going to be awarded the recognition,” she said. “I was pretty surprised.

“Dr. Cook started talking about the successes in the AT&T classroom — that we were lucky to get new grants — and then said, ‘Now we have another success.'”

Mazzer said she was humbled by the experience, and although she enjoyed receiving phone calls and cards and being “wined and dined” for a few months, her life is back to normal, and she couldn’t be happier.

“I am still doing what I am doing to the best of my ability, but I was treated with so much respect,” she said. “And it was an opportunity to get in touch with people and students I haven’t seen or talked to for years and years.”

Cook said he couldn’t think of anyone who was more deserving of the award than Mazzer because of her drive to make sure the classroom is constantly improving.

“As a person, she is just wonderful and has committed her life to the education of students.” he said. “She is a great example of what it means to be a life-long learner.”

Marc Streem, of Crestwood High School, received the Non-Traditional Educator Award; Linda Rea, of Hiram College, received the College/University Educator Award; and Teresa Graves, of Southeast Local Schools, received the Pre-K to Middle School Educator Award.

Contact public affairs reporter Elise Franco at [email protected].