Golden Apple: Congratulations to John Haag!

Golden Apple

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Congratulations to this week’s Golden Apple Award winner, John Haag! 

Mr. Haag is a math teacher at Rochester International Academy. For more than 20 years he has been an educator in the area, something he says his wife inspired him to do. Haag said she encouraged him to become a teacher after seeing him spend a lot of time with young people throughout his neighborhood. 

“I was keeping them busy and doing stuff and catching frogs and snakes, so my wife said one day, ‘Why don’t you suck it up and just go be a teacher?,’ So I said, ‘I am not good at writing,’ so I asked her to write my entrance to get into college and she did…and low and behold, this is what I meant to do,” Haag said. 

Over the years, Haag has been making a big impact not only inside the classroom, but outside of it too. Mr. Haag’s own son, also named John Haag, said it was his dad who inspired him to become a school counselor in Rochester. John said both his mom and dad were teachers.

“Growing up with that, it was very important for us to respect our teachers and things like that. So my dad instilled that in us, and I feel that he was the epitome of what that meant to be a good teacher and to go above and beyond. That was a big reason that I went into the field that I went into,” John said.

John added that over the years, he has seen firsthand how his dad has impacted the lives of his students, past and present. He does this not just by teaching them the important skill of math, but by also helping them outside the classroom.

“He’s quick to open his wallet, you know $20 here, $40 dollars, $100, depending on what the needs of the student are on. He delivers gift baskets to a lot of the students during holidays,” John said. He said his dad also takes students fishing, helps them get into college, and invites many of them over for dinner, especially during the holidays. 

“We had one of them over for Thanksgiving this year and this is a student who had never experienced Thanksgiving before. So it’s nice to offer that opportunity, kind of like an American holiday with students who haven’t experienced that,” John said. 

Mary Andrecolich-Montesano, the Principal at Rochester International Academy, has been working alongside Mr. Haag for years. She said he has a “huge heart” and has helped many students new to America succeed. 

“He is such an exceptional educator, but he’s even a better human being. He’s a phenomenal human being. He’s been with me many years. He started with us at RIA and you know, RIA is a program for refugees and newcomers students, and he not only teaches them, but he makes them part of their family,” Andrecolich-Montesano said. 

She added that Mr. Haag makes math more accessible to students who don’t know a lot of English and helps them pass the regents exam and go on to graduate. She also added that Mr. Haag “never takes a period off” and always has students alongside him. 

“He really helps them acclimate to their new country, their new city, their new school, and he helps them be successful. He has absolutely had an impact on our graduation. Even as of yesterday, there’s a student that was in college that came back for his assistance,” Andrecolich-Montesano said. “If our goal is always graduation and to have successful scholars, to have full access, John Haag is the reason that happens.”

Because of the many things Mr. Haag does for our community, News 8 awarded him with a Golden Apple Award. His son was the one nominated him for the award.

“I wanted to pay respects to him and let him know how much he means to not only myself, but other students,” John said. 

Upon receiving the award, Mr. Haag said it’s the people around him that make his job so great, adding teachers are only as good as their students. 

“These are the best kids in the planet. They’re wonderful. They come to school, they want to learn. Look at them, they were sitting here doing their work,” Haag said. 

And it was very clear that Mr. Haag’s students enjoy him as a teacher and were very eager to learn from him. 

“When I first came to America I didn’t know a lot of English and he explained to me a lot of other stuff. In my country, it was kind of hard to learn math but when I came here I learned a lot of stuff,” one 11th grade student said. 

Another student added, “Thank you so much to Mr. Haag. He is an amazing teacher and we appreciate him for everything he did for us.”

Congratulations to Mr. Haag for winning a Golden Apple Award! We are so lucky to have a teacher like you in our community. 

If you know a teacher you’d like to nominate for this recognition, you can fill out a nomination form by clicking here. 

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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