Middle school teacher honored for his dedication to students beyond the classroom

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CHICAGO — A sixth grade social studies teacher was surprised in Rogers Park Sunday by a group of students honoring him for his commitment to education and the community.

Jason Piechowiak was the only one who did not know about the surprise as Buddy’s Helpers, made up of student athletes from around Chicagoland, showed up to award him with a check for $750 to go towards his classroom and his own good work. 

Piechowiak  has dedicated himself to raising money in the annual two-day Pelotonia Bike ride in Ohio since 2016, when he lost his father to cancer just three weeks after he was diagnosed.

“They run a first class organization every ride dollar raised goes to cancer research,” Piechowiak said. “I told my dad when he passed away that I would make him proud and this is something I know he’s very proud of.”

Last year, Piechowiak’s family condo in Rogers Park burned in a freak accident which he said only made his family stronger.

It happened at the same time a student was diagnosed with leukemia and Jason dedicated his fundraising ride to not only his dad’s memory, but also to young Johnny’s fight as well.

“And thankfully in November 2019, he took his last treatment pill and he’s cancer-free,” Piechowiak said.

Jason’s principal said this honor is well deserved, as he keeps in touch with many students for years.

“He likes to deflect the credit. He talks about the squad, ‘team before me’ kind of guy,” said Northbrook Junior High Principal Scott Meek. “He’s coached too and he’s always had that motto as well. He brings people together and it’s kind of for the greater good.”

A greater good that came back to thank a social studies teacher making an impact. It’s something extra to be thankful for this week in which we all give thanks. 

“That’s what’s important to me is that I have an impact or I have a way to make a difference,” Piechowiak said. “And that’s why I do my job.”

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