CENTERVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) – Matthew Szozda thrives in the chaos usually accompanying elementary art class.
“Getting to learn from them is probably the most rewarding part,” the Cline Elementary teacher said. “And then just the energy they bring.”
Centerville City Schools recently named Szozda its 2019 Teacher of the Year. Cline Elementary principal Sherley Kurtz said she nominated the seventh year teacher because of his unique approach in the classroom.
“It’s a very genuine back and forth between teacher and child,” Kurtz explained. “(He’s) not teaching them how to do something, but giving them an opportunity to create and make their own way and make good decisions that are good for the world.”
Szozda’s lessons for the second through fifth graders connect and build upon concepts his students have learned each year. He said he focuses first on developing their sense of identity and then empowering them to use their skills to create positive change. Many of the lessons are tailored by the students themselves.
“We’re so used to telling them what to do and what to believe that we forget to ask them what do they believe and how can they use those beliefs to change the world,” Szozda explained.
He said the attention from the district-wide award initially made him uncomfortable, but he hopes it draws attention to his idea that children’s beliefs matter.
“The recognition is not as much about me as it is about the stuff they allow me to do and the work that we’re doing in the classroom,” he said.
This spring, Szozda will be among the finalists for the Ohio Teacher of the Year competition. A selection panel will choose one person for the statewide honor.