Peace Maker Spotlight
Peace Maker — June 2012
Since 2001 when he first saw Mattie on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Michael Mangone has been introducing “Mattie Lessons” to the Children of Carlstadt, NJ. Before his recent retirement, Michael was a middle school teacher in Carlstadt for nearly 40 years. Since 2001, his 6th grade literature students have learned about Mattie’s story, writings, and message of peace in creative ways, and they have inspired to live peacefully.
Until 2004, the students sent letters to Mattie. After Mattie’s death, the classes began communicating with Mattie’s mom. The students sent stories about their lives, questions about peace for our world, and statements about who they want the be when they grow up. They also sent essays that resulted from assignments that taught reading and writing and skills, but also inspired character building. Examples of lessons include:
- Compare and Contrast: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mattie J.T. Stepanek.
- Copy your favorite Mattie poem and write about how and why it inspires you.
- Create your own Heartsong poem — What do you hear deep in your heart?
- Using A Handful of Mattie as a guide, create your own Handful poem or essay.
- Draw a picture that illustrates your favorite Mattie poem.
- How does Mattie’s life inspire you to live a hopeful, peaceful life?
In 2007, Jeni visited the school for the first time, and was amazed at how Michael had sparked a desire for peace in so many children across so many years. Since then, the School Board has created the “Peace Library in Honor of Mattie J.T. Stepanek,” and the Mayor and Citizens have built and dedicated a multi-acre “Peace Park in Honor of Mattie J.T. Stepanek” adjacent to the school. On May 22 each year, the Citizens and Children of Carlstadt celebrate “Mattie Stepanek Day” with a focus on Mattie’s vision for personal and world peace, and each June, the School Board honors a graduating 8th grade student with the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award. On several occasions, busloads of Carlstadt students have made road trips to Maryland to celebrate Mattie’s anniversary, to dedicate Mattie’s Park in Rockville, and to learn more about Mattie and peace during visits with Mattie’s mom.
“Whenever I brought Mattie’s message of peace and hope to my students, I always felt that the message was alive and well in the present moment,” Michael said. “The message is thriving and pulsating with life every time my students realized the power of the spoken word and our ability to shift our words, thoughts and actions for the better. The same energy we use to speak in negatives can be turned around to a positive simply by a conscious choice. In the end a life can be changed for the better as our collective consciousness grows and expands by our positive choices- reaching people and places we oftentimes will never know about. As a teacher, bringing this awareness to my classes was one of the greatest gifts and witnessing a change in the words and actions of my students brought me the ultimate gratification of knowing that in some small way I had contributed to being a peacemaker in the world.
Michael may have recently retired as a full-time teacher in Carlstadt, but he remains active in bringing Mattie’s story and message of hope and peace to children in Carlstadt, and around the world. He supports Mattie’s Foundation as a member of the Program Committee. In that role, he is helping with the development of the Foundation’s new “Peace Tips” and “Teacher Tips” materials that are a part of the Pathways to Peace Program, the Peace Certified Schools Program, and our new webpages with Lesson Plans from educators.
Michael is always willing to talk with any educators in any school district, sharing suggestions on how to introduce Mattie’s story and embed a message of peace into different aspects of curricula, and life.
Thank you, Michael,
for being a Peace Maker.