A beloved teacher’s legacy lives on through Michael Aymar Foundation.
Michael Aymar was one of those teachers, the ones that aren’t just doing a job but following a passion. It’s easy to spot them if you’ve ever been lucky enough to be in one of their classrooms. It’s a blessing and privilege to be in their presence and learn from them, not just while you are there, but for years to come. Special teachers really do stay with you for a lifetime. For teachers that have touched the lives of their students, no end-of- the-term teacher gift could ever thank them enough.
The middle school students at Lacordaire Academy in Montclair have been twice blessed. First, to have Mr. Aymar as a teacher, and now, to be the first recipient of the NASHDO Scholarship. Sadly, Aymar passed away early this year after a battle with cancer. As word spread of his passing, it was the outpouring of love from his former students that inspired the Aymar family to establish the Michael Aymar Foundation.
Aymar was born in Jersey City and grew up attending Catholic schools. As a student at St. Anthony of Padua, and then later at St. Peter’s Preparatory School, he gained the vision and model of a good education that he would then replicate with his own students. After returning to St. Anthony of Pauda as a teacher, he then went on to teach at St. John the Evangelist in Bergenfield, Our Lady of the Lake, in Verona, Blessed Pope John in West Orange and, finally, at Lacordaire.
Aymar was known to say that children were “God’s best thing.” A favorite quote of his, and now the motto of the Michael Aymar Foundation is this quote by W.B. Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire..” Aymar did just that for so many of his students.
In fact, the name “NASHDO” is an acronym for a saying that Mr. Aymar invented to help students learn grammar. It stands for “not all sentences have direct objects.” The direct object usually takes the action of the verb. For example, in the sentence “I climbed the mountain,” the word “mountain” is the direct object because it is receiving the action of the verb “climbed.” But some verbs are intransitive and don’t need a subject, as in “I danced.” Noting that many students struggled to understand this, he devised a way to help them remember.
The Michael Aymar Foundation officially received its 501(c)(3) status in March of this year. Now, not yet a year old, the decision was made to award this first scholarship to Lacordaire. “Lacordaire was Michael’s last school and a school he felt emphasized academic standards that prepared students to excel in high school,” said Amanda Aymar, President of the Michael Aymar Foundation and Michael’s wife of 33 years. “He had a very special relationship Lauren Mazzeri, who is the Assistant Head at Lacordaire. They were both volunteer forensics coaches. Lacordaire has always been very competitive in that area. We felt a very strong connection with the middle school students at Lacordaire and wanted them to know that their notes and messages inspired our Foundation to give back to a school where he was dearly loved. That is why we awarded the NASHDO Scholarship in the amount of $10,000 to the school.”
Lauren Mazzeri is a former colleague of Aymar’s. The two volunteered as Forensics coaches and later worked together on the faculty of Lacordaire. “Forensics is a public speaking league that students in grades five through eight can participate in to develop confidence and skill in public speaking,” said Mazzeri. “Michael and I developed forensics teams for schools in the North Jersey Forensics League. We were thrilled when he joined Lacordaire because he was a great coach and advocate for Forensics. It really felt like he had been here for years.”
The NASHDO Scholarship is intended to meet the needs of students who are facing a difficult time in life that will affect their ability to attend a private school. NASHDO might also stand for “Not All Students Have Decent Options.” Following a catastrophic family event such as an illness, death or job loss, MAF acknowledges that there may be no option for a student but to leave school if their family can no longer afford the tuition. The intent is to provide emergency support to a family in need to allow the child to finish the school year. It is aimed at middle school students because those are the students that Aymar taught and loved so much.
“Two students were selected to receive the scholarship for this year. Both have financial needs and both are in middle school. For Michael, family, faith and education meant everything,” said Mazzeri. She noted that the families chosen shared those core values, and also knew Aymar personally. “Both of these students meet the requirements as outlined by the foundation. That personal connection was not required, but made the scholarship that much more special.”
“Mr. Aymar is remembered for the emotional support he gave his students, many of whom viewed him as a father figure,” said Amanda Aymar. “Through NASHDO and the Michael Aymar Foundation, he continues to help children through difficult times.”