Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!
“I have the best job because I make art all day, every day, with the most beautiful people, my community’s children, and your children.” Mary Haas of Rockford clearly still loves her job after 35 years of teaching. She’s been an art teacher at Holy Family School since 1985, during which time, she has received many honors: member of curriculum committee that created the Fine Arts Curriculum for the Dioceses of Rockford 2004; nominated for Golden Apple and Outstanding Catholic School Educator several times; and recipient of the Advisor’s Award for Leadership/ Catholic Role Model in the Athletic Program 1993. If you can imagine it – when Mary started teaching, it was without computers. She used floppy disks and learned to search the Internet efficiently. To one of her fellow Holy Family teachers, Mary’s best talent is “her ability to see the silver lining in everything and everyone. She sees each individual child’s potential and is willing to work with them, before, during and after school to help them reach that potential.” Mary tells her students, “we don’t do easy, we do our best.” And she does her best to encourage them. “When a student has a fun new idea, or takes the time to do something that requires extra effort, we all celebrate their achievement with the classroom clap.” Though her art classes include lots of singing, giggling, creativity and fun, through her positivity and guidance, Mary has helped many children learn not just about art or history, but also about life. Students who are faced with personal troubles know she is there for them. When her class was grieving a student who had passed away, Mary was right there to respond to their request for chalk so they could make drawings on the playground that she could see from Heaven. A former student shared that while he learned many things in Mary’s art classes over nine years, what he remembers most was her presence. “Every day, Mary offered me the gift of being seen. What more can a teacher do to foster healthy psychological development in her students than to offer them the gift of being seen”?