Students change forecast for teacher of the year

Woodland Regional High School Principal Arnold Frank, left, congratulates Woodland physics teacher Mark Mierzejewski on being named Region 16’s 2013 Teacher of the Year during a ceremony Sept. 12 at Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — After earning a degree in meteorology, Mark Mierzejewshi started substitute teaching part time until a meteorologist job came along. Twenty-five years later Mierzejewshi is still teaching only now he is no longer a substitute

Mierzejewshi, a physics teacher at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, was named Region 16’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.

“Obviously, it’s an incredible honor because I see the quality of the staff at Woodland, and I don’t think that I’m anyway superior to anyone one of them. I’m fortunate to have staff and students put good words in,” said Mierzejewshi following a recognition ceremony prior to the Board of Education’s Sept. 12 meeting.

Mierzejewshi has been teaching for five years at Woodland. He spent nearly all of his previous 20 years teaching at Kennedy High School in Waterbury.

Woodland Principal Arnold Frank said when he first interviewed Mierzejewshi five years ago it was obvious that Mierzejewshi had passion and dedication for teaching and inspiring students.

“If you ever have the opportunity to stop by the high school and visit his classroom you’re going to see 21st century learning at its finest,” Arnold said. “Kids involved, kids active, problem solving, excited, fun and learning, a really inspirational teacher.”

Mierzejewshi’s presence is felt at Woodland outside of the classroom as well. Mierzejewshi is the faculty advisor for Woodland’s robotics team, Team Impulse, which was formed in September 2011.

The team received an excellence award in March at the VEX Robotics New England Championship in Worcester, Mass. and advanced to the 2012 VEX Robotics World Championships in Anaheim, Calif. in April. The team finished 14th out of about 100 teams at the world championships.

As a substitute teacher biding his time until he could begin his meteorology career, it was the students that ultimately changed the direction of Mierzejewshi’s life.

“The kids started to get a hold of me, and I started to understand teaching is more important,” Mierzejewshi said.

It’s the energy and passion of his students that has kept Mierzejewshi in the classroom these past 25 years.

Every time students have that “ah ha moment,” Mierzejewshi said, he realizes the impact teachers have on the lives of students

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Mierzejewshi will be honored at the statewide teach of year celebration in November at The Bushnell in Hartford.