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Teacher Appreciation Thursday – Entry #1: Mrs. Butzu

A lifetime of memories shaped by her identity.

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Teacher Appreciation Thursday – Entry #1: Mrs. Butzu

“Butzu keeps a notebook to maintain her busy schedule. Organization and balance between work, home, and other aspects of her life are a personal goal for her. “

“Butzu keeps a notebook to maintain her busy schedule. Organization and balance between work, home, and other aspects of her life are a personal goal for her. “

“Butzu keeps a notebook to maintain her busy schedule. Organization and balance between work, home, and other aspects of her life are a personal goal for her. “

“Butzu keeps a notebook to maintain her busy schedule. Organization and balance between work, home, and other aspects of her life are a personal goal for her. “

Dayton Hammon, Publicity Editor

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Driving one hour back and forth from Ann Arbor, English teacher and Yearbook advisor Ava Butzu is one of the many diverse teachers whose lives are built by the stories of the past.

“I sort of think of my life in these different characters or layers, like my younger self doesn’t feel like my older self doesn’t feel like my middle of my life self, so I love thinking about stories from when I was a kid,” Butzu said.

One story Butzu recalled, revolved around her mother’s attempts to get her out of the house during the summer as a child. This resulted in Butzu taking daily trips to McFarlen Library, which was walking distance from her childhood home in Grand Blanc.

“They had a reading program where you would get a puppy sticker for every book you completed, and I remember I just wanted to get all the stickers. I think that shaped who I am because it taught me to be resourceful outside of the house, and obviously it set in my desire to read and grow,” Butzu said.

As she got older, Butzu cited the college application process as another pivotal moment in her life.

“I wanted to go to Michigan State because that’s where all my friends were going. So I got that application turned in right away and then my mom made me apply to Michigan. . . I felt like I was being punished because I just didn’t want to go to Michigan,” Butzu said.

In order to please her mother, Butzu remembers the lack of effort she put into filling out her University of Michigan application as her Advanced Placement Literature class watched Apocalypse Now. She also recalled the tears filled with both shock and horror upon receiving her acceptance letter from the school.

“I just think that back then, friends were very important to me. . . My friends and my friends’ families played a huge role in my life,” Butzu said, “[When I got the letter] I knew that I’d have to separate from them and go do this scary thing on my own, because not as many kids went to Michigan.”

When the day came to move, at the age of 18, her possessions were packed into a sedan.

“I moved out,” Butzu said. “I never moved back home. At the age of 18, I took all of my stuff, and I was gone. It was a real becoming-an-adult moment for me at a younger age than most people do these days.”

Butzu’s identity was also shaped her Jewish heritage and her father’s experience as a Holocaust survivor.

“I take a lot of pride in my heritage,” Butzu said. “[It’s] really shaped a lot of how I look at the world . . . like my sense of social justice I think comes from my grandma, who was killed in a concentration camp. ”

Butzu recalled growing up watching her father struggle with sharing his experiences including the loss of his parent who were killed in Auschwitz.

“I knew [that my father was a survivor] because . . . he’s always worn my grandpa’s wedding ring, and I always knew it was my grandpa’s wedding ring, but I didn’t know why or what happened . . . I didn’t know the story,” Butzu said.

That changed when at the age of 22, Butzu’s father shared his story for the first time.

“He was so closed about it” Butzu said in regard to her father, “But it’s neat to me that at the age of 52 . . . he started talking about it. It’s like therapy for him, and . . . [now] he actually talks about it at public schools, or any group that asks him to come talk . . . which is neat because he was so closed and quiet about it”.

Following her education at University of Michigan, Butzu felt a desire to come back to Grand Blanc High School. However, after interviewing at seventeen different schools, she found herself hired part-time by the defunct Flint Central High School.

“So I took that job, turned it into a full-time job in the first month, and I stayed there for seven years,” Butzu said. “I applied to work [at Grand Blanc High School] two more times, interviewed two more times, and I didn’t get the job either time”.

With her lack of success, Mrs. Butzu was ready to throw in the towel.

Then her classroom phone rang.

“The department chair called me in my classroom at Flint Central and said ‘We want to interview you. We have this position,’” Butzu said.

In September 1999, Mrs. Butzu made her debut as a GBHS teacher.

“When I was at Flint Central, I taught AP Lit” Butzu said, “So when I came here, you couldn’t just walk into a school and teach an AP class, at least you couldn’t back then because they were highly coveted. There was only one AP Lit class and only one section of it. Then someone said ‘Maybe we should do an AP Lang class’, and I was like ‘I’ll do it!’”

For the last eight years, Butzu has taught AP Language and Composition. She is also the advisor for the Echo Yearbook.

“I was at Flint Central and there was a parent who was doing the Yearbook at her house.” Butzu said. “They weren’t even a class. She moved, so she was like ‘You should do this yearbook’ and I was like ‘Okay, I’ll do it!’ so they made it a class there.”

Arriving at Grand Blanc, Butzu had to wait until the 2002-2003 school year to become the Yearbook Advisor, as a former teacher held that position. Since then, Grand Blanc High School has had Butzu supervise the creation of the yearbooks, with this upcoming yearbook being the 21st one she will have worked on.

Butzu believes that working closely with students is one of the things she’s most proud of in her career.

“I read this Malcolm Gladwell book called The Tipping Point,” Butzu said, “Gladwell thinks that there are four different types of people in the world, and one of the types of people he calls the Connector. Lately I’ve been thinking of myself as a connector. I love that I know all of these people and that I have connections with them.”

Butzu feels that her connector personality has helped her establish a network of relationships with students and her peers, citing her two thousand friends on Facebook.

“Butzu has always impacted me positively since the day I met her,” senior and Yearbook editor Brogen Witucki said, “We’ve gotten really close over the years, and I’m always aware I can go to her for anything, like we’ve had long phone calls of her giving me advice and tips on how to make me my best self”.

Witucki also praised how supportive and caring Butzu is for her students, and how she makes the learning environment fun. Another pupil of Butzu’s highlighted her words of encouragement and motivation.

“I remember one time where we were writing our memoirs, and I had always felt like I could never be better than my sister.” senior Tierra Shannon said. “Butzu kept encouraging me, telling me ‘You are great, you’re writing is great, don’t ever underestimate yourself.’ That made me feel good about myself, it pushed me to showcase my writing more, that’s something she made me realize”.

Shannon also works with Butzu on the production of the school’s yearbook, and has gotten to know Butzu over the course of the last year and a half.

“Grand Blanc should appreciate having any teacher like her,” Shannon said. “She’s so dedicated to her job, getting up at 4:30 in the morning, driving all the way here from Ann Arbor, and coming in with a smile in her face.”

The daughter of a holocaust survivor, an alumni of Grand Blanc High School, and an advisor who has found that her life is just a series of stories, Mrs. Butzu can be found in Room 305, striving to grow with her AP Language students or helping her Yearbook Staff produce the 2016-2017 Yearbook.

“I really love her,” Shannon said. “She’s one of the teachers in our school that really impacted me and I know I’ll never forget her.”

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Teacher Appreciation Thursday – Entry #1: Mrs. Butzu