Teachers Before Townsend: Dr. Mazza’s journey from Fort Aerospace to the Peace Corps to Queens, NY


Chayti Biswas

Dr. Mazza takes us on his journey around the world that finally inspired him to pursue teaching in New York.

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After twenty years of teaching at Townsend Harris, Dr. Stephen Mazza is well known by students for teaching two Introduction to Computer Science classes and three AP Statistics classes. His story, however, stretches back far beyond these courses. 

Dr. Mazza was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He attended college at the University of Colorado where he studied applied Mathematics and Engineering, specializing in Computer Science. “I was always good at math, so since it came naturally to me, I liked it,” he said.

For two years, he worked as a programmer at a defense contractor for Fort Aerospace where he wrote code to run the computer in the defensive centers. This code was then stored in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, a mountain reserve to protect any data or code from any outside missile attacks. 

Dr. Mazza then began working for the Peace Corps after the division at Fort Aerospace dissolved. The Peace Corps was founded by John F. Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, and Harris Wofford, and is an independent agency and program of the United States government that trains and deploys volunteers to provide international development assistance. 

During this job, he was deployed to the Solomon Islands, a country in Oceania, for three years. He also went backpacking around South America for seven months. “I went everywhere I could go. I wanted to experience and see everything I could,” he said.

He soon returned to the Solomon Islands. “I taught math there on a middle school level. That’s what inspired me to become a teacher,” Dr. Mazza said. 

Dr. Mazza earned his masters in Education through a program offered on the Solomon Islands for former Peace Corps members and was able to teach in different cities during this. Later on, Dr. Mazza completed his PhD in Education. 

He decided to pursue teaching in New York City because he was already familiar with city life from when he had previously visited friends. The diversity of Queens surprised him when he moved here. The fast pace and culturally blended environment is what motivated him to settle down in New York. “Queens is the best place on Earth,” he said.

Fellow math teacher Ms. Frankowski speaks to Dr. Mazza’s Wordle abilities in which they play it each day in the math office. She said, “He is very competitive with the Wordle and we all see if he can do it in only two tries.” As a person she says Dr. Mazza is a great guy and extremely nice.

Hasan Raza, a senior in Dr. Mazza’s AP Statistics class said, “Dr. Mazza always made sure we understood topics the best we could and answered questions thoroughly.” In addition to this, sophomore Rodrigo Aquino in Dr. Mazza’s Introduction to Computer Science class says, “[Dr. Mazza] is a great teacher. He’s calm and clears up any confusing concepts.”

Amidst all the traveling and teaching, Dr. Mazza also enjoys his fair share of sports. “I feel like I’m lucky to be able to coach the tennis team,” he said. Although he is still learning about the sport, he supports the team every way he can. Ana Montan, a member of the girls tennis team at Townsend Harris said she admires Dr. Mazza for “his moral support and sportsmanship.”