Mark Miazga’s English classroom has been described as a place where “students come to understand what being smart and thinking for oneself is about.” Miazga, in his 13th year of teaching at Baltimore City College, a college prep high school made up largely of minority students, goes above and beyond to cultivate meaningful relationships with his kids. Lessons challenge students to think beneath the surface meaning in texts and conduct high-level discussions. He gives specific feedback on students’ writing, with room to revise.
A believer in the power of independent reading, Miazga created a free-books library in his classroom that he replenishes by frequenting a local charity. To make sure students benefit from their reading, he devises a quiz for each book. A National Board Certified Teacher, Miazga takes a special interest in kids who have low skills or are underperforming and, as varsity baseball coach, he also works to help all players succeed academically. In addition to his other roles, including English I chair and Outward Bound coordinator, Miazga’s Drama I freshmen staged a successful production of “Death of a Salesman”; he even prepared them to rehearse on their own when he was away coaching baseball games. Last year Miazga and his English I class were featured in the documentary “Experiencing Shakespeare,” produced by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Miazga’s instructional practices, including seminars, debates and writing workshops, provide students with the skills needed to pass difficult assessments such as the International Baccalaureate English A1 exams. Results have been stellar: In 2010-11, all 55 students who took the IB English exam passed, with three scoring a perfect 7 and an average score of 4.8; the world average is about 4.7. Over Miazga’s three years of teaching IB English IV, 94.5% of his students have received a score of 4 or above.
Miazga’s leadership extends beyond the classroom and stage as he mentors new teachers and shares literacy developments with colleagues. He writes curriculum for the district and has been a presenter at the National Council of Teachers of English conferences. He is a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, including one last summer at the John Steinbeck Institute in Monterey, Calif. In his multifaceted ability to spark a lifelong love of literature and learning, Mark Miazga is a role model.