References – Parents

References from parents of my students…


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Becca Steinbach

Lily loved your class. It was definitely her favorite, and really thrived when given the challenges. Thank you for a great year. 

Kathy Wong

Over the course of the year, Lisa has learned so much in your class. I really believe that your teaching tactics are very helpful to the students in helping them better understand history. I believe that you are very passionate about what you’re teaching which really motivates the students. Lisa has enjoyed your class and having you as a teacher. Thank you for an amazing year!

Jennifer Zwief

Mr. Matera, Ryan had a fabulous experience in sixth grade history. We feel that your approach to gameifcation, simulation and experiential learning allowed him to really get involved and engaged in history, think outside of the box, realize the importance of working as a team and motivated him to do his best on an individual basis. You created a very active learner and a lover of history. Thank you. We appreciate all of your efforts and are grateful that Ryan had you as a teacher. Happy Summer! Jennifer and Paul Zwief

Niven Kingwill

With Quinn in your 6th grade History class and Graham in your 8th grade elective, Diplomacy, the Kingwills had a great experience this year. Your class continues to be the class most talked about at our family dinner table. The boys love the opportunities to earn additional points and further explore topics on their own. They are not limited to the written curriculum, but can find what interests them and learn more about that – what a great life lesson! They both enjoyed working in different teams with their classmates and learning how to manage group dynamics. You do a masterful job of educating the kids using tools and vocabulary that is relevant to their generation of learners. Thank you!!!

Colleen Jacobus

Mr. Matera has really found a way to connect with my son Joe. Joe has many strength’s but not in a traditional way of evaluation. Mr. Matera through his experiential learning and gamification has reached Joe and tapped into his talents and Joe has had a blast while learning!! Thanks for all you do!! Colleen and Gene Jacobus

Ashwini Gundelly

Mr.Matera has been one of the favorite teacher for my daughter. He has made the whole education experience fun, exciting, and interesting. The techniques he has used to educate the kids have been very engaging, challenging, and competitive with a focus on team skills. My daughter would always come home and tell me how much fun she had in her class learning history. She worked on her projects enthusiastically without any support. We loved his style of teaching!!

Mimi Singer

This year in Mr. Matera’s class has been an exceptional one for my daughter. She’s really been challenged in a number of new ways. The opportunity to earn XP has given her the chance to explore creative ways to communicate historical ideas – from creating a Chinese screen, to iMovie projects, to using toothpicks or popsicle sticks to build structures. Roll playing let her take historical figures to heart and really learn about them, their obstacles, triumphs and contemporaries – she loved the Renaissance debate. Gamification and experiential learning let her go beyond memorizing dates and historical figures and made them personal and put them into context of the times.

Overall this class really ignited an interest and an empathy for the events in history in my daughter.

Keep engaging and pushing your students!

Manal Mortada

Leen has had a wonderful time in your class. I think the way you approach history is unique. Most of the time history is a dry subject matter, but you have made it come to life through your gameifacation. I have never seen Leen excited about a subject this much, but what is even more thrilling is the amount of learning, creativity, and exploration that is happening at the same time. Keep up the great work! The only part that was somewhat stressful was not knowing when the test was going to be held, but she did fine and not knowing exactly what will be on it, I think, is good for students to differentiate between what is important information and what can be put off to the side. 

Greg Borca

I’m not sure where to begin.

Five months ago I sent a communication to the head of the school about Mr. Matera. At that time, I didn’t know him at all – but just made observations based upon our daughter’s experience in the first four months.

The communication is as follows:

Dear Mrs. Fuller and Mrs. Nosbusch

First of all, happy new year. I hope you were able to spend time with family over the holiday break. By way of introduction, I am the father of three USM Students – Athena ’20, Bonde ’22 and Cannon ’28.

Each of our children began in PK and have enjoyed a wonderful experience at University School. The environment is special and the educators have been outstanding – one better than the next. I’m excited about the direction of the institution and particularly interested in the new strategic plan.

That said, I feel compelled to send a note about Mr. Michael Matera, your 6th grade teacher of World History and International Relations. I don’t know him personally other than our November parent-teacher visit but I have been admiring his work now for the past four months.

I was initially a bit confused when Athena began the school year talking about a realm, guild or house – the layout of the game in Mr. Matera’s class took me some coaching to understand. As an entrepreneur and leader of people, I often look for ways to inspire, create, drive and have fun at the same time.

I’m really impressed with the work of Mr. Matera – not because I understand his game – but because the unbelievable amount of work produced by our daughter. The learning that is taking place as a result of Mr. Matera’s game is inspiring. The fact that classmates work in small groups as a team and yet have individual opportunities (seemingly endless) to produce yet more work (sidequests) – all in pursuit of stickers is brilliance. He creates collaboration and competition and truly inspires the students to excel.

The quality of the professionals at USM has been exceptional. Yet I felt compelled to share my observations on what I believe to be an exceptional job of teaching innovation. I would hope you take the time to deconstruct the concepts and look to apply the principles whenever possible.

I hope you have an enjoyable and successful 2014. Thanks for the chance to share my observations.

Greg Borca

I’m not sure what else I can say. It doesn’t come from knowing Mr. Matera at all – it comes from observing the behaviors extracted from his teaching.

The educational community could improve itself by evaluating Mr. Matera’s tactics and incorporating the best practices into everyday activities.

As an entrepreneur and CEO, I could not be more impressed with the creation and leadership displayed by Mr. Matera.

Greg Borca

Nikhat Quryshi

Afiya was always excited and enthusiastic to attend Mr. Matera’s class. She found his style of teaching to be engaging and purposeful. She especially enjoyed working outside of the classroom on the various sidequests to broaden her knowledge.

Courtney Olson

Mr. Matera instills absolute passion in his students. He has mastered the subtle art of making learning fun. His students excel, going above normal classroom expectations. They take on quests and side projects to delve further into the subject matter. After school, Mr. Matera takes the time to host game club, my student’s favorite extra-curricular activity. She can’t get enough!

Suzanne Mock

My son’s comments tells it all……….”Mr. Matera is the greatest teacher ever!”
“Awesome!”, “He makes it so much fun with games and challenges”. “I like the way he teaches”.

From a parent perspective, it’s great to see enthusiasm for history. I feel that the teacher’s style is so important to enhance the learning. I had a very straight forward boring teacher when I was younger who just stood up at the front of the class talking – turned me off to history from then on! Love to see my son’s enthusiasm. I also appreciate the feedback that Mr. Matera gives to update how my son is doing. I would give Mr. Matera an A+!

Joy Vertz

“I have never seen my son so excited and interested in learning! He routinely (with no nudging!) went out of his way to research, do extra credit and go beyond the expectations purely because he was enjoying the process and learning. That is the mark of true excellence, when you can spark a student to not only learn what is expected but be engaged enough to have the self-motivation to go beyond the expected.

Mr. Matera is a top notch teacher that we feel honored to have had for 6th grade.


Samantha Dermond

Matias has absolutely LOVED this year with Mr. Matera!!! Matias is constantly engaged in class activities, he is tremendously entertained and motivated. He absolutely LOVES this class and I am sure he will miss Mr. Matera next year… needless to say he will remember this experience forever! Thank you so much for all you do for our children. It shows you love what you do and you love to see kids excited about learning.


Gretchen F. Miller

My son, Louis, has thrived on the teaching and learning format in Mr. Matera’s History class. He has been motivated to go above and beyond the requirements of the class and the assignments because it is inherently more appealing and interesting when there is a game idea involved with XP and special skills or items that can be earned through special activities, contributions, or projects. Having special tournaments and other events has made the class even more real and has given students opportunities to show off their individual and group knowledge and learning. This is an engaging and exciting way for a Middle School student to get immersed in their learning in a fun and tangible way that gets them out of the textbook and into the world of history right there in their classroom!


Annie Wells

Joey’s experience with world studies this year has been above and beyond my expectations and his. He has learned so much and has had such fun with all of the different ways that you have used to teach the material. He recited things at the dinner table that he wouldn’t have known from just reading it in a book. From my perspective, Joey took each project seriously and put so much time and effort into it – having fun and learning so much a long the way. His experience in world studies will be one of his greatest memories from 6th grade. Thanks for elevating his love for learning and creating new ways for him to do it. He will truly miss being in your class. It has been a wonderful year! Thank you for investing so much time into making Joey’s year so great!


Philippe Cooper

This was Matthew’s favorite class. I have never seen him so motivated to go beyond the basic expectations. Phenomenal idea of having ” side quests” to motivate. This should be the model for all educators!
Kudos to Mr Matera


Stephanie Wagner

This approach was very valuable for my daughter. She learned more because it was experiential and because she was completely engaged and excited about the class. She worked harder to support her team, and she had fun learning. It also helped her get better at working in groups. She would likely say that this was the best classroom experience she’s had at USM.


Jayne Pinj

Mr Matera has truly brought to life the history lessons that so often fail to resonate when simply printed on a page. He has added a whole dimension with the use of games and his fantastic factual and anecdotal yarns’. Max will continue to have a passion for this rich subject, throughout his life. Mr Matera has made social studies a fascinating and impactful part of Max’s education. Thank you for being a teacher he will always remember, and more so , one who made a difference.


Kat Just

Jenna has had an amazing year and she has loved History!  All of the experiences and games and debates have really brought history to life for her and she has learned and retained what she learned because of all the participation.  I think it has been very effective for Jenna to learn this way and to be challenged to learn more regardless of credit or a grade.  When she participates and can take the initiative and can act out or play out the scenarios, she feels she is a part of history and she can relate to it so much more than just reading it in a book.  Thank you for a fantastic year and for being such an innovative and creative teacher!


Kathy Gridley

This is our family’s first year at USM.  We decided on USM, because of the quality of teachers, and our son’s experience in Mr. Matera’s class, proved this to be true!  I can honestly say Danny has loved learning in Mr. Matera’s class.  He has brought History to life, and as a result, Danny has been excited about learning and engaged.  Thank you!


Mary Anne Revolinski 

Patty LOVED the whole experience. I know the quest and extra credit potential really, really motivated her to work harder. I wish – because I would like her to read more – that reading extra books could have been worked into extra points.

Thanks for the great year!


Kelly Grebe

This was one of Tripp’s favorite classes.  He never whined about homework, but rather thoroughly enjoyed participating.  The hands on and interactive approach really ensured that the material was truly learned.  Thank you.



My daughter has thoroughly enjoyed history this year!  She has enjoyed the subject material, the activities, and the competition.  And she has especially enjoyed her teacher and his sense of humor!  Thank you for a great year!


Rene’ Hicks

Branden speaks very highly of Mr. Matera and his classroom structure. Branden loves a challenge in class and he gets this in Mr. Matera’s class. He tells me each day how much fun he has in Mr. Matera’s class and how he enjoys learning in class because of the way Mr. Matera teaches. Every day Branden has a fun story to tell me about his history class. The excitement makes me smile when I listen to how excited he gets. The debates are “awsome“, you hit it right on the nail, an excellent way to have the kids research, write notes and be prepared for the next day’s challenge.


Vicki Montijo

My son thoroughly enjoyed your incorporating a variety of styles of learning this year. He is a very hands-on individual and by giving him ‘experiences’ in which to further his knowledge of world history, you captivated him and thus he was very engaged in a subject that was previously of little interest. He was continually driven to do better. I think this generation can benefit greatly from the use of gamification because it aids in motivating them and provides immediate feedback to further solidify their learning of the subject matter.


Alan Wagner

Although Laura is generally highly motivated by her desire to learn everything, this class took her to new heights of energy, effort, and excitement.  Hardly a day went by without her telling me what happened in the class, what she was planning, or where she stood in the rankings.  While she had many successes, she also had (to her) bitter defeats in Sparta and, especially, in the Renaissance game.  However, I think even these defeats helped her learn to deal with disappointment.  Overall, this was a wonderful class, and the one that she told me should was sad to have end.


Francisco Soto and Diana Quintero

We were fortunate to have Mr Matera for the second time. Our current 8th grader, Danny, had Mr Matera as his history teacher in 6th grade when he was new to USM.  At that time, we were so impressed with how much he learned about world history in such depth. Now 2 years later, our son Cico had the opportunity to learn this subject. We thought that the teaching method he used 2 years ago was the best and couldn’t get any better. We were wrong. The way the curriculum was taught this year was amazing. The use of playing games embedded in the time in history, the way in which kids “lived” history by enacting crucial historical moments made the kids understand history rather than memorizing facts. We have to say that not only Cico was the learner, we all as a family were able to learn amazing Pieces of history.Danny was able to remember quite a bit of what Cico was learning , but he also was able to learn new information. It was Cico’s favorite subject and was the first thing he will share about his day when he got home, and was always looking forward for the next day.  We hope that he keeps this method, as we can’t wait for Sebastian to be a 6th grader in 2 years ! Thank you Mr Matera for putting the very best every day!


Brian Becker 

Branden talked more about school this year than he ever has. He really enjoyed your class and responded well to your teaching style. Not only did he have a successful year, he will also have lasting memories.
Thank you for all you’ve done to help him learn and grow this year.


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