2019 Educators Who Make a Difference: Mario Stanitzek
Physical education teacher Mario Stanitzek goes above and beyond his job requirements to mentor his students for life, not just in the gym.
Stanitzek teaches at West End Elementary in Easley, where he made the switch from classroom teacher to PE to give him more flexibility with his own family. He and his wife have three children.
“I grew up in a rough background,” he said. “I grew up really poor. At the age of 10, my mom went to prison for selling narcotics.”
Though he suffered several devastating blows in childhood, Stanitzek said a third-grade teacher reached out to him and made a difference. His career is centered on being that same lifeline to students. Several years ago, he started a mentoring club called Boys with Grit for students in grades 4 – 5. It gives Stanitzek the chance to meet with 20 to 25 students once a week after school.
“I felt that was a really important time to be a greater influence in their lives,” he said. “We might talk about leadership. We do homework for about 20 minutes, then we head over to the gym. It offers so many opportunities to connect with them.”
On club days, students come to see Stanitzek for a dress shirt and tie.
“They have to learn to tie the tie themselves,” he said. “That represents Boys with Grit, but also shows them the importance of being a leader. They have a sense of pride. They have some confidence.”
Sharing his story gives Stanitzek credibility with his students and it gives them the opportunity to see that they aren’t alone.
“I tell them that there is hope,” he said. “As lonely as it might feel or as angry as you might feel, there is hope in that situation and I am evidence of that.”