By Isabella Ryan, Polo Park Student Journalist
For many, success is determined based on wealth or achievements. But for someone like Larry Matz, his success and happiness came from making an impact on the kids at Polo Park Middle School.
Matz has been an educator since he was 21 years old, getting involved in a wide variety of subjects, from religious education to math and engineering. Most recently, he worked as an assistant principal at Polo Park Middle School in Wellington for 17 years, before retiring last month.
“I’m going to miss the kids,” Matz said while recalling his favorite parts of the job. “I’ll really miss the whole thing.”
He went on to describe how he loved every aspect of the job, from the stressful planning that came with new school years to the conversations he had with students each day.
Fellow Polo Park Assistant Principal Fallon Kauker admired how much Matz loved his job. “He took a lot of pride in his work, and he always wanted to do what was best for the school and the students,” Kauker said.
Matz said that his top priority while being an assistant principal was to make every decision with the intent of helping his students. “You want the kids to realize that you’re on their side, you want the very best for them,” he said. “Whatever goals they have, we want kids to be successful, and we want them to become whatever person they want to be. That’s our goal, that was my goal.”
As an assistant principal, Matz had many responsibilities. “You’re planning, preparing. You’re studying, you’re learning. You’re always trying to be better at what you’re doing,” he said.
Some of his specific duties at Polo Park included coordinating testing and working with custodians to keep the school clean, along with taking care of discipline.
“You’re figuring out ways to make your school better,” Matz added.
One of those ways has become one of the most important features at Polo Park.
“Something I enjoyed most was creating the pre-engineering program,” he said. “At the time, our numbers were going down… By developing the pre-engineering program and getting the ‘Project Lead The Way’ program at Polo Park, we were able to provide an opportunity for our science department to have electives that they enjoy teaching. It was a win-win-win for everybody. The science teachers got to teach something they always wanted to teach, the students got to take classes that were exciting and fun, the school got to grow and expand — it was a very positive experience.”
Matz chose to retire at an unusual point in the year, but his responsibilities outside of the school had a major impact on his decision.
“I have a mom and a dad, 82 and 84 [years old]. It looked like it was the best time, for me and my family to look at retiring to take care of them,” he said.
Besides taking care of his parents, Matz realized there’s a lot he wants to do with the rest of his family.
“There’s places all over the world where I’ve been, and I want to take my family to go see some of those places,” he said. “It is a lot of fun to share some of those experiences.”
His other plans post-retirement include a variety of goals, such as getting his pilot’s license, raising cows in his home state of Oklahoma, writing a book and starting a business.
And if he gets bored, there’s always another plan in place.
“I have a lot of things [to do] while I’m retired, none of which are engaged in going back to work. But I might end up doing that, too! You just never know,” he said.
Even though Matz worked at Polo Park for many years, for him, his final day was one of the most memorable.
“That last day that I was there was absolutely amazing,” he said. “I didn’t realize the impacts of the things that I had done. Seeing how people appreciated what I had been a part of, the last day will be a memory for me for the rest of my life. It was a really, really special day.”
Matz clearly knows the importance of opening yourself up to new opportunities and possibilities, and he shared this piece of advice.
“As a young person, don’t limit yourself. You just never know what you can do; you can do anything. Like I said, I’ve done many things with my life, and I’ve been all over the world. I could have never planned as a teenager that was going to happen,” Matz said.
Even as he departs the world of education, Matz is still trying to make an impact on his students. As he rides off into retirement, he can now take a deep breath and realize, simply, it was a job well done.