Peace Seeker Spotlight

Posted on: December 18th, 2012 by jeni No Comments




Peace Seeker

January-February 2013

(& Summer 2013 Update Honoree!)

Tilsim Newman

Peace Seeker Tilsim Newman decorating the 

Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation 2012 Peace Tree



Tilsim Newman has been selected by Mattie’s Foundation as a “Summer Spotlight Update” honoree. Each summer, we update some of our Spotlight Honorees from across the previous year, selecting those individuals, families, and organizations who have continued to make deliberate choices that spread peace in our world.


Tilsim has always been a very active volunteer for Mattie’s Foundation. She also works hard to raise awareness of peace for our world, and of the work Mattie’s Foundation is doing to support peace education. During 2013, the school where Tilsim works – Pangborn Elementary School in Hagerstown, MD – chose to become our first Peace Certified School. Following presentations to the student body, Jeni Stepanek (Mattie’s mom) was given a copy of a book about Mattie and peace that was created by three of Tilsim’s students. Since then, the school has created an ongoing Peace Focus Plan for the coming school year!

Tilsim Newman’s original Spotlight feature is below on this page.


Click here to read Tilsim Newman’s 

2013 Summer Spotlight Update page.


 (Visit our Peace Certification and Teacher Tips pages

to read more about Tilsim’s work and for information about

the Peace Plan(s) being carried out by Pangborn Elementary School!)



Tilsim’s Original Spotlight Feature: 


Since she first read  “Just Peace: A Message of Hope” years ago, Tilsim Newman has been sharing the message Mattie offered through this book of essays, and also his books of Heartsongs poetry. An ELL (English Language Learners) teacher, Tilsim has created lesson plans that encourage children to understand peace for themselves, and for our world.


Not only has Tilsim shared these peace activities with her own students, Tilsim has also spread this attitude of peace with all the teachers and staff at Pangborn Elementary School in Hagerstown, Maryland. During 2011, she organized a Peace Pledge Contest among her ELL students. The concept matched the school motto: I can use my heart and hands appropriately and my mind well.


Then during February 2012, she helped organize a school-wide poster contest for every grade during which students reflected on Mattie’s poetry and message, and created their own projects and “recipes for peace.” Photo collages of those posters can be viewed below this article.


Click here to see Tilsim’s Recipe for Peace Lesson Plan
on our Teacher Tips page.


Dedication page in a book about Mattie, written by three of Tilsim’s students.

Also in 2012, one of her students asked if they could write a book about Mattie. Tilsim said she was so excited to hear this great idea!. Two of the student’s friends joined in and they came up with the book called Peace for Everyone. The story can be found by clicking here (


Tilsim has been an active volunteer for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation since 2011, when she served as a Pathways Guide at the  “Heartsongs: Our Purpose” Station during the inaugural Peace Celebration hosted by the Foundation. In 2012, Tilsim organized another school-wide activity, and all of the Pangborn students created a peace ornament for the 2012 Peace Tree decorated by Mattie’s Foundation, and on display at the Rockville Civic Center throughout the December holiday season. She and her husband, Don, helped decorate the 2012 Peace Tree. More than 1,000 ornaments created by children and adults of diverse faiths and abilities from around the world — and Pangborn Elementary School — became a part  of the display.


Mattie said that we must ”want peace” and we must ”make peace something that matters to us in all times, and for all people.” As a teacher, as a volunteer, as a staff member and as a citizen of our world, Tilsim has been a role model for all that Mattie said exemplifies a person who truly makes peace an attitude. Now, as we begin a new year and celebrate educators, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation honors Tilsim Newman as our Peace Seeker Spotlight honoree for our January into February post.



Below are Tilsim’s responses

to our interview questions.


Tilsim Newman, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation 2013 January-February Peace Seeker Honoree.


My name is  Tilsim Newman. I am an ELL Teacher at Pangborn Elementary School in Hagerstown, Maryland. Since I read Mattie’s book, Just Peace, I’ve been sharing his message of hope and peace with my family, friends, colleagues, and students. I enjoy Mattie’s books, and as a I hobby, I also write poetry and prose. I have all of his books in my classroom library and my English Language Learners love borrowing the books.


My country of origin is Turkey, and I came to the United States in 2002. I am married to my dear husband, Don, who has always been supportive of me in every aspect of my life. We do not have children of our own, but I have tons of children at school whom I care for deeply.


As a school, we organized a Peace Poster contest last year based on Mattie’s message of peace. I’ve been promoting the “Bucket Philosophy” by Carol McCloud at my school, and this year it has become part of the counseling program. An invisible bucket represents a child’s mental and emotional health, which we try to fill with love and hope peace, which will teach each child to also fill the buckets of others with love and hope and peace. Mattie’s message is a perfect fit, and example for this philosophy.


How did I first learn about Mattie? What impact has he had on my life and choices? To answer these questions, I’d like to share the book review I wrote about his book Just Peace. My review explains the impact Mattie had on my life  —


Just Peace — a collection of essays, letters, and poetry on peace by Mattie — was his final book.


Just Peace: A Message of Hope

by Mattie Stepanek (a review by Tilsim Newman)


Have you ever thought you would learn peace is possible no matter how dire the situations are from a child who began writing poetry at the age of three? This is the “book of peace” by the “messenger of peace” who devoted his whole life of thirteen years to reminding everybody that just peace is the answer.


In this book you will find the spiritual journey of a boy reaching for humanity. You will experience the depths of belief, perseverance and positivity.


Once you read the poem Recipe for Peace, you will begin to fly on the wings of a dove as peacefully as you can. You will believe peace is possible and you will make a promise to yourself that you will be the next person to carry the torch Mattie Stepanek lit.


For the sake of a caring, accepting, tolerating, forgiving and a celebrating world, start turning the first page just now,  just for peace!




Tilsim’s husband, Don Newman, helping decorate the 2012 Peace Tree for Mattie’s Foundation.


After reading Mattie’s Just Peace book, I looked him up online,  and that was one of the pivotal moments of my life, changing for better because I decided to email Jeni to become a member of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation. I now volunteer regularly for his Foundation helping with activities and projects because I want peace in the world.


It is a great honor for me to be recognized as a Peace Seeker by Mattie’s Foundation. For Mattie and for all the other peace seekers in the world, I’ll keep working toward peace. I will keep spreading Mattie’s message of peace and hope all my life so peace prevails forever. My journey with peace will continue all my life.


Thank you, Tilsim,

for being a

Peace Seeker.




Click here to read Peace Posts (poetry and essays) 

written by Tilsim across the years


The 2012 Peace Posters created by

Pangborn Elementary School students.

Click here to see Tilsim’s Lesson Plan on our Teacher Tips page.


Click on each photo to enlarge










Return to Archived Spotlight page


Return to Main Spotlight page


November Spotlight

May 5 at Botanero

Cinco de Mayo Partnership Fiesta - FREE ENTRY - All Day Happy Hour & food specials, Music by DJ Genius, ZamDance performances -- join us for a fundraising party that celebrates peace and acceptance! Read more...

June 2 at Dawson's

Mosaics & Music: Make Peace the News -- join us for wine & apps, music & mosaic unveiling, conversation & celebration at a fundraising gathering to promote peace! Early Bird Tickets $25 ($30 at the door). Read more...

June 21 and 22

Celebrating Mattie’s life & legacy – 15-year anniversary Mass on June 22 (11 am) at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Derwood, MD, followed by a reception hosted by Mattie's Guild - ALL ARE WELCOME. Read more...

July 13 in King Farm

2019 Peace Day Celebration – join us for a FREE street fair (1-5 pm), all day food & drink specials (1-8 pm), and a Happy Hour Dance Party (5-8 pm) – arts, crafts, music, performers, cake, moon bounce… Read more...

- Mattie J.T. Stepanek