Every year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) honors teachers across the nation who teach citizenship education topics.
Bringing a big smile of gratitude, the Carthage VFW Post 2590 presented Keith Zoromski, formally known in the community as "Mr. Z" at the Carthage Junior High School, with a certificate of honor as the Teacher of the Year.
"It was our honor to present this great teacher with the district award," was the statement on behalf of the VFW. "Thank you Mr. Z for being the teacher that you are and the person it has helped our students in Carthage become and grow from. We at the VFW Post 2590 appreciate all the teachers in our district for a well done job."
This year makes Zoromski's eighth year teaching social studies to Carthage students, and is now a part-time Crowder College instructor in Carthage. He is also a recipient of a Golden Key Award from the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, and voted the town's favorite teacher in The Carthage Press' Reader's Choice Awards.
"I was honored," Zoromski said of his initial response in receiving the VFW award. "Out of the hundreds of teachers across the district it was flattering people thought of me. I moved around a lot as a kid so this makes me feel comfortable to plant my roots in Carthage. Even though I'm not a Carthage native, it does feel like home to me. To serve my community is a wonderful calling."
Phrased as "a calling," is certainly accurate for Zoromski. He said he knew he wanted to be a teacher on Sept. 11, 2001. Due to health reasons he was unable to enlist in the military, but knew he had to serve in some capacity.
"I felt a need to do something and this is my way of serving my country," he said.
Zoromski grew up in Michigan, graduated from high school in Main and earned his bachelors in political science and secondary education certification from Iowa State University. He went on to earn his masters in American history from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. When his parents moved to Joplin he applied for teaching positions in 80 different districts across the four-state area and Iowa. Six months later, he interviewed at the Carthage Junior High School, and was hired the next day.
"I tell that story to students and they don't believe me," Zoromski said with a big grin. "It's a lesson on how you don't give up, and I believe everything happens for a reason. I met my wife, Stephanie, in Carthage. She's a kindergarten teacher at Columbian, and we have a daughter, Hadley, who's 10 months old."
The adoption process for the Zoromski's was not an easy task, but it brought out the best of Carthage.
"We received tremendous support from the school district," Zoromski said. "Letters of recommendation … thoughts and prayers … which only cemented the fact that this is home."
Page 2 of 2 - Zoromski says he's proud to share his passion of history with Carthage students, but also, to be a positive influence in students' lives.
"It's motivating too because I know even on my worst day that I might be a student's best hope. I want to give it my best every day because of that," he said. "I feel I'm a better teacher because the love and support of my wife and family. Knowing I have their encouragement and that they are proud of me encourages me every day."