Detroit Lakes Middle School math teacher Steve Zamzo was chosen as Detroit Lakes Public Schools' Teacher of the Year at a late afternoon ceremony on Wednesday, March 11 at M State's Detroit Lakes campus.
Zamzo was one of six finalists for the award. Teachers and staff at each of the school district's six buildings — the high school, middle school, Roosevelt and Rossman elementary schools, the Area Learning Center and Lincoln Education Center — each selected a TOY nominee from their building to represent them at Wednesday's ceremony.
Besides Zamzo, the finalists were Detroit Lakes High School special education teacher Tim Erickson; Area Learning Center special education teacher Cara Myers; Lincoln Education Center special education teacher Jean Hoskins; Rossman elementary third grade teacher Fletcher Nelson; and Roosevelt Elementary physical education teacher Robb Flint.
After each nominee was introduced, he or she would select a large playing card from a deck that was set out on a table at the front of the room, with the teacher who drew the high card being the winner.
"Everyone is deserving," said Zamzo in a Thursday morning interview. "I was lucky enough to draw the high card."
He added that teaching was something he had aspired to since he was a young boy, growing up in Isanti, Minn.
"My grandmother was a teacher," he said, adding that when he was attending high school at Cambridge-Isanti, he took all the child development classes that the district offered. "It (teaching) was just one of those things I always knew I was going to do."
After obtaining his bachelor's degree in elementary education from Concordia University in St. Paul, Zamzo went on to earn his master's degree in education technology from Leslie University in Cambridge, Mass.
He first came to work for Detroit Lakes Public Schools 16 years ago, first as a 3rd grade teacher at Rossman, and then teaching 4th grade there, before moving over to the middle school to teach 6th grade math.
Along the way, he has also coached track, football and gymnastics — in fact, Zamzo was so successful at the latter that he was named the Greatmats National Gymnastics Coach of the Year in 2019.
He said the thing he likes most about coaching is the challenge of getting the student athletes he works with to work towards a goal, "and do it in a way that they really believe they are good at it."
Zamzo makes his home in Detroit Lakes with his wife, Amy, who is an occupational therapist and autism resources specialist at the Circle of Life Academy in White Earth, and their son, Connor, who is a freshman at Detroit Lakes High School this year.
He said he was honored to have been chosen by his peers at Detroit Lakes Middle School as their Teacher of the Year, and humbled to receive the district-wide honor as well.
"It's quite an honor to have such nice things said about me," he added.