Marist President Br. Hank Hammer, FMS presented the school's esteemed Champagnat Educator Award to math teacher Jeff Nicholson '81 and English teacher Mary Cozzie during the last all-school mass of the year on Thursday, May 2. The award recognizes those who share similar traits with St. Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marist Brothers.
After graduating from Marist, Jeff Nicholson earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He started his teaching career at St. Joseph in Westchester and eventually became the math department chairman there. He returned to Marist in 1995 and joined the math department.
In addition to teaching math, he was, for a number of years, moderator of the yearbook. He is currently the moderator of the academic team and the girls’ bowling team. He is co-moderator of the math team with Mr. Glennon. Interestingly, Jeff was one of the math team’s first members when he was a Marist student. He is a long-time member of the Math Teachers Association of Chicago and currently serves as the president of the Catholic Math League South. He also teaches the Marist eighth grade math program with Mr. Sean Maxwell.
Jeff is a caring, compassionate man who has high expectations of his students because he believes in their talents and abilities. He is quiet and unassuming, but those who have had him as a teacher know him to be a committed and dedicated teacher in the Marist spirit of St. Marcellin Champagnat.
After spending a number of years in the business world, Mary Cozzie made a career change and decided to become a teacher. She earned her teaching degree from Dominican University in River Forest. Hoping to do her student teaching assignment at a nearby Catholic girls’ high school, she was initially disappointed to find out that she was assigned to Marist which was then all boys. According to those who know her, she quickly came to believe that Marist was where she was meant to be. That has to be the case because she has been a vital and vibrant part of this school community since 2004.
Those who have had her as a teacher know Mary to be a passionate and engaging teacher. Described as “tough but fair”, she has high expectations of her students. Some have learned through experience that when she says, “no late work accepted” that she means just that. Most students have come to know her enthusiasm for literature and reading. She believes that literature is a metaphor for life, a mirror of sorts that allows us to see ourselves and learn about ourselves as we meet characters and situations in different literary works.
She has taught freshmen, sophomores, and seniors on all levels. She is a familiar presence at Marist all year long, being a welcoming presence even in summer school. She has been moderator of the National Honor Society and participates each year in the senior Kairos retreats. Mary embodies Marcellin Champagnat’s love of young people and his belief in their potential.
Br. Hank explained that the recipients see what they do as vocation as much as occupation, they believe that Catholic schools are vital to our community, and they know that to make Jesus Christ known and loved that they first have to know and love Jesus Christ themselves. To be eligible to receive this award, the recipients must have worked at least 10 years at Marist Chicago. The winners are determined by the nomination and votes of the past years’ Champagnat Educator Award recipients.
Previous recipients are Mr. Vince Andiorio, the late Br. Vito Aresto, Fr. Ed Barrett, Mr. Don Barwacz, the late Mr. Al Brazen, Mrs. Alex Brown, Mrs. Cathy Chambers, Mr. Randy Coe, Mrs. Holly Cox, Mrs. Theresa Coy, Mr. Mark Gervais, Mr. Owen Glennon, Brother Rich Grenier, Br. Hank Hammer, Mr. Patrick Hennessy, Rev. Tom Hurley '85, Mr. John Hyland, Mr. Joe Inzinga '77, the late Mr. Denis Kazelas, Mr. Mike Leahy, Mrs. Bonnie Littleton, Mr. Frank Manna, Mr. Larry Malito, Mrs. Ruth Maloney, Mr. Sean Maxwell, Br. Patrick McNamara, Mrs. Kim Myers, Br. Kevin Moran, Deacon Andy Neu '78, Mrs. Mimi O'Keefe, Mr. Larry Ormond, Mr. Don Pirkle '77, Mr. Patrick Quinn, Mr. Don Richardson '77, Mr. Tom Samonski, Sr. Margot Schueneman, RSM, Mr. Tom Seputis, Mr. Jerry Sullivan, and Mr. Larry Tucker.