Hannah Do is a freshman at CHS and is a writer in The Globe this year. She is interested in writing about the students and teacher in the school district of Clayton, and enjoys...
Mr. Maesaka Earns State-Wide Award in Humanities Education
Mr. Maesaka talks about his journey to become a teacher and the obstacles he faced during his career.
October 2, 2019
“A lot of things came as a result of things that I didn’t do well. When I was in middle school, I wasn’t a very good English student, so I had a tutor from when I was in 8th grade up until I was a junior. I felt like I was working twice as hard as everybody else just to keep up,” said Wydown Middle School English teacher Rob Maesaka.
Despite his challenges during his adolescence, Maesaka recently won the Humanities Excellence in Education award from the Missouri Humanities. This national organization has various state branches, including Missouri. Recipients in various categories, such as education, are recognized every year. This award is presented to a teacher that has the ability to engage students in their work and expand their creativity. Once a year, a banquet is hosted in the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Keynote speakers such as authors are invited to speak.
However, Mr. Maesaka’s` path to becoming a successful teacher began with many obstacles.
Maesaka said, “I learned in college that I had pretty serious stage fright. I was not able to just speak in front of people. Even if I had everything written down, my hands would shake and my voice would shake. So I thought, I didn’t want to be an adult and have that problem. [So] I took an acting class, and I really enjoyed it a lot.”
After he was certified to teach, Maesaka started his teaching career as a drama teacher. He wrote plays such as “White to Gray,” a work about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The woman who nominated Maesaka, an eyewitness to the bombing, came to see his play and afterwards nominated Maesaka for the award last May.
Maesaka found that literacy and drama have many connections, such as the impact of storytelling.
“I think, all through my career, I really had an interest in the power of stories. In theater, it was more telling stories, and in English, it’s more reading, teaching, and discussing stories. . . for me, it’s always been about knowing that stories have that ability to enlighten people and transform people. I think part of the power of stories is when they come to life and when you feel like it’s a real thing and it’s not just something dead on a page,” said Maesaka.
One skill that Maesaka wants students to improve on is writing daily in their writer’s notebooks.
“It is work, and I think what’s hard about writing is the process of consistently writing and consistently trying to convey your ideas on paper regardless of what it is. It’s hard, writing well is hard. But keeping at it and consistently working at it is how you get better. There’s just no shortcut for it,” said Maesaka, “The more that you try it and work on it, the better you get.”
Maesaka’s brilliance in teaching stems from his excellent philosophy in teaching literature. However, he had to face challenges to get to this point in his career.
Maesaka said, “When I moved over to literacy, my biggest concern was that students were not going to take me serious as an English teacher because I was concerned about showing people that I could teach English well, and that I wasn’t going to be the easy teacher. I was really intense that first year. . . I assigned a lot of work and I graded pretty hard because I really felt like I needed to push them and I needed to show them what I knew. What I came to realize, was that there were a lot of students that thought that I didn’t like them, and so I think the most important lesson that I learned was [that] it’s really important for students to know that I cared about them … I told them that I wanted them to be in my class and I wanted them to do well. I did like them and it really changed how the rest of the year went.”
In the future, Mr. Maesaka is thinking of switching over to theater.
“I had thought about whether or not I would go back to theater at some point if something came open, I don’t know that I necessarily would. I think at this point, I’m continuing to take classes in playwriting and continuing to write. For the future, it’s [Maesaka’s goal] continuing to develop as a teacher and to pursue more the area of creative writing. Other than that, I think the district as a whole, is very supportive in terms of teaching and building relationships,” said Maesaka.
Maesaka says that the district has helped him win this award.
“I would just say in terms of the award itself, this district, they really gambled on me twice. The first time when they hired me, I didn’t have any teaching experience. I was fresh out of my student teaching. They knew that yes, on paper that I had a masters degree in theater and that I was certified on a couple of areas, but I really had no job experience, and so when I was hired, I thought, “I really want to do well” because this district has a really strong reputation. The second time was when I told the administration that I was interested in maybe teaching English someday. The district encouraged me to pursue something that I had a passion and an interest for, And so they supported me and hired me for the English teacher even though I was not certified in it at the time. That was a pretty risky thing. The district has provided me with so much support and opportunities to do really great things,” said Maesaka.
To get to this point in his life, Mr. Maesaka ran into conflicts and had to adjust to new environments. However, these changes and risks are worth it for the future, when these experiences help to win awards, be a successful teacher, and build a strong community for the students, like Mr. Maesaka.