The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

The Legacy of ‘Mazen-glish:’ 21 Years at Creek

Creek+teacher+Michael+Mazenko+came+to+Creek+21+years+ago.+He%E2%80%99s+leaving+this+year+after+a+career+of+teaching+English%2C+mentoring+students%2C+and+working+as+an+administrator.%0A
Wryn Duepre
Creek teacher Michael Mazenko came to Creek 21 years ago. He’s leaving this year after a career of teaching English, mentoring students, and working as an administrator.

When Michael Mazenko started teaching English 31 years ago, the top charting song was “Whoomp (There It Is)” by Tag Team. The NBA champion was the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan. The NFL champion was the Dallas Cowboys led by quarterback Troy Aikman. Now, after a career of classroom teaching, admin work, guest writing, and mentoring students, he plans to retire at the end of this school year. 

“It’s definitely melancholy, but I also know it’s time to move on. It’s time for me to go to the next place on my journey,” Mazenko said. 

Mazenko has filled many roles in his time at Creek, and his impact has spread far beyond his English classes. 

As an administrator for eight years, he helped with planning events like speaker assemblies and hosting the talent show. 

“Working with Dr. Keogh on graduation for eight years was just one of the true joys of my experience here because our graduation is so special. I loved working with the performers,” Mazenko said.

Last year, Mazenko started looking into writing fellowships, where he could write a book and teach a few classes at a university. When that didn’t work out, he made the decision to teach English for one final year at Creek.

“I’m actually really glad, ironically, that I didn’t get those fellowships last year because I love my classes this year,” Mazenko said.

Once his kids had moved to the East Coast for college, he and his wife decided that it was time to move on to the next adventure.

“Right out of college, [my wife and I] lived abroad for five years. We graduated college and taught English in Southeast Asia and we’ve thought about maybe doing it again.” Mazenko said. “Now that we’re in our 50s, it’s kind of like our 20s.” 

Mazenko’s high school experience differed from the average Creek student’s.

“I went to Catholic school. It was very strict, [and] there wasn’t a lot of emotional connection.” Mazenko said. “[You have to] be willing to be vulnerable with the kids [and] be a human being to the kids.” 

As a part-time journalist writing pieces for the Villager, 303 magazine, and the Denver Post, Mazenko has taken his passion for writing outside of Creek classrooms. This has affected his teaching dynamic by allowing Mazenko to use his own passion for writing in his classroom lessons.

“[My past student said] I teach Mazenko’s version of English, and she called it Mazen-glish.” Mazenko said.

Mazenko made it a priority to bring real life into the classroom in his lessons, using personal anecdotes and props.

“It was refreshing to learn literature through the form of art. He once used a prop in his lesson making it more engaging, and it made me more excited to learn.” Sophomore Natalia Byler said. Many students even consider Mazenko to be their mentor, coming to see him during their free time for advice and just to simply talk.

“He’s such a deep person,” junior Payton Lukasch said. “I have learned so much about him and life and more about myself.”  

This unique approach had an impact on Creek Social Studies teacher Erick Gallagher too. In the early 2000s, Gallagher sat down in Mazenko’s AP English Language class not knowing that Mazenko would write a college letter of recommendation for him, and certainly not expecting to teach alongside him one day. 

“[Mazenko] challenged me to be a better version of myself and gave me a lot of respect for teachers for the impact they have,” Gallager said. “[He] forced me out of my comfort zone and to be excited to do English.”

Teachers and administrators will also have to adjust to the loss of Mazenko.

“He’s gonna be missed here. His knowledge [and] his passion [are] going to be missed here, but I’m so excited for him, to be pursuing his passion and doing what he wants to do for himself,” Assistant Principal Jessica Robinson said.

Mazenko’s departure is bound to be emotional for some students and staff. As a result of the lasting impact Mazenko has on their lives and the school, they will have to transition from seeing him in the hallways and classroom five days a week, 36 weeks a year, to not at all. 

“I have already felt so empty without him. He brings something so special to the table,” Junior Giselle Yokomichi said. 

And as these students continue on, losing Mazenko as a part of their support system, things like senior year stress can feel worse.

“[It’s] heartbreaking to not have him senior year, as a mentor and someone to look up to,” Lukasch said.

For Mazenko it is bittersweet leaving Creek: his kids grew up on this campus. 

“I can remember coming my first year, my son was two years old, and my wife and I were holding his hand and walking into these hallways,” Mazenko said.

Creek has been a monumental part of Mazenko’s life, so naturally, moving on is going to be a huge shift for him. However, he remains confident that his memories and experiences at Creek will stay with him wherever life leads next.

“I know that wherever I go, I’ll always be a Bruin. And I’ll always take a little piece of Cherry Creek High School with me.” Mazenko said.

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About the Contributors
Serenity Hurtado
Serenity Hurtado, Assistant Features Editor
Hello, My name is Serenity. I’m a sophomore and this is my first year with USJ. I love to write because it shows the different perspectives and can create a deep meaning. I really enjoy theater, science, animals, biking and hanging with family.
Wryn Duepre
Wryn Duepre, Chief Photographer
Hi, my name is Wryn and I am a senior! I am the Chief Photographer for the USJ and this is my second year doing so! I love writing, reading, and taking pictures. I am a freelance photographer in my spare time and I love teaching photography and creating impactful photos that tell stories!

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