Longtime St. Joan of Arc Educator Recognized by Futures in Education for His Teaching Contributions

Paul Mazza sits at his desk. He has taught in the same school, St. Joan of Arc, for nearly 40 years. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

JACKSON HEIGHTS — After 38 years as a school teacher at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School, Paul Mazza has given himself a nickname: The Riddler. 

The science and religion teacher always asks his students questions, and never just gives them the answer. They have to find it on their own. He has a reputation for being “a little bit tough,” he admitted in an interview with The Tablet but described it as a strength. 

He believes in self-accountability, discipline, and responsibility, and looks to create a foundation for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students who come through his doors as they continue on to secondary education. 

When he hears from his students that their parents or siblings have spoken highly of him, and brought them to St. Joan of Arc to learn from him, he knows he has done his job correctly.

“If I’m going to be a superhero, that’s my superpower. To ask questions,” Mazza said. Mazza was honored by Futures in Education as one of the elementary school teachers who exemplifies Catholic education’s values at their annual Scholarship Fund Dinner on Tuesday, April 30. 

Paul Mazza among his eighth grade class. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

The nonprofit organization supports diocesan students through need-based tuition assistance, and this year, they paid tribute to teachers who make Catholic education possible.

“[Catholic schools] have done an incredible job. If people who have been fortunate can in fact give that back to the kids who really want to learn and do so in a safe and caring environment … it’s an enormous act of kindness,” Mazza said.

A lifelong Long Island City resident, Mazza and his family are parishioners at St. Mary Church. He is the product of Catholic education, attending the since-closed school of his parish and Mater Christi High School, which is now St. Francis Preparatory School. 

He has been a Catholic school teacher since 1985, and firmly believes in the importance of openly talking about faith to students.

“I can live my faith. I can model my faith. I can show the kids that there is a positive impact that can in fact be made in the world. And the longer I’ve been doing this, that seems to be taking center stage more and more,” Mazza said.

Self-describing himself as “a little bit tough,” Mazza hopes to encourage students to think outside the box by not giving them the answer to questions. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

There are around 200 students enrolled at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School, and 30 to 40 receive scholarships through Futures in Education. The organization is invaluable, said Agnes Mosejczuk, the school’s principal, who knows that several families at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School would not have been able to consider sending their children to the school if not for support from Futures in Education.

“[Mazza] is one of the best teachers that I have ever had in my life, and I am grateful for that,” said Adrianna Moreno, a Futures in Education scholarship recipient and student at St. Joan of Arc.

Mosejczuk is only in her second year as principal at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School, but she has known Mazza for years, both as an instructor herself and through her two sons, who had him as their teacher. 

“Mr. Mazza is an outstanding educator. He truly cares about his students and learning. He inspires them to dream big, try, and work hard. His work ethic is so high, and he instills that in his students.

Having spent nearly four decades as a teacher, Mazza often has taught the relatives and children of past students. Brandon Movillo, an eighth grade student, hears from his father how it was to have Mr. Mazza as a teacher, so he knew early on that standards would be high for his class. 

Paul Mazza has taught at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School for nearly 40 years, believing the value of Catholic education comes in his ability to openly discuss faith and improve the student holistically. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

“To this day, he has stories about how Mr. Mazza was strict, but he also changed his life for the better,” Brandon said.

Throughout the three grade levels that Mazza has his students, he works to teach them that failure is a normal part of growth and that everyone learns at a different pace with different potentials. Before learning to walk, he tells the students, they had to first learn to crawl. 

“He gives you tidbits of information about what we’re supposed to learn,” said Francesco Palomo, one of Mazza’s eighth grade students. “He doesn’t hand all of it out on a silver platter.”

One thought on “Longtime St. Joan of Arc Educator Recognized by Futures in Education for His Teaching Contributions

  1. Mater Christi is now St. John’s Prep. St. Francis Prep has always been St. Francis Prep. They took over Bishop Reilly when they moved into their building in Fresh Meadows