Late Minooka teacher blazed trail
By Tony Graf email@example.com January 28, 2013 4:14PM
Minooka High School teacher Mike Assaf (center), who died of pancreatic cancer over the weekend, is shown with a group of his former wrestlers whom he coached when they were in junior high school. Assaf coached at the junior high level. | Submitted phot
Updated: March 2, 2013 6:13AM
Michael Assaf III, a mathematics teacher at Minooka High School, died on Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 37.
Assaf had been a teacher at the high school since 2003. He helped break a school record in math competitions, won repeat honors for his work, and found innovative ways to review algebra and geometry lessons.
“We ask that you keep Mr. Assaf’s family in your thoughts during this difficult time,” the school said Monday in an announcement.
In December 2004, Assaf and Rick Beeler coached the Minooka math team to a fourth-place finish at the Suburban Prairie Conference Math Contest, at North Central University.
The finish was the highest ever in the school’s history.
Minooka won first-place team awards in factoring and sequences; and third-place team awards in quadratic forms, linear equations, polynomial equations and exponents. Also during the contest, several individual students achieved perfect scores on their respective tests.
During this exciting time, Assaf was nominated for “Three Cheers Awards” for three years in a row — 2004 through 2006 — according to Herald-News archives.
In the program, parents of Minooka students had an opportunity to nominate teachers and staff members for the awards.
“The awards are given to educators whom parents feel have gone above and beyond their duties as teachers and have made a difference in students’ lives,” according to an announcement in The Herald-News. “Winners of the awards are presented with certificates of recognition by the school.”
Assaf found a fun way to engage students during math review with his “Candy Land” theme — named after the popular children’s game.
In pairs, students selected a colored card, which represented a review category. They then moved their game piece to that category and began answering a review question.
When they found the solution, they followed up with Assaf to see if they had the correct answer. If they did have the correct answer, they moved ahead on the game board. If they didn’t have the correct answer, they moved back and tried the question again.
“The students love the game because it makes math review fun,” Assaf said in a Herald-News article. “What I stressed, though, was that the review wasn’t about a competition or who could get through the game board first. It was about making sure everyone got through the board, period.”
Assaf first used the unique combination with his geometry students and received positive feedback from them, so he applied the same idea with his Honors Algebra II students.
On Monday, the school said it would share service arrangements for Mr. Assaf with the school community once information becomes available.