Tyson Mastel | Top 40 Under 40 2019

He ignites a love for literacy within staff and students through fantastical means.

Photograph by Daniel Wood

Age: 39

Job title: Assistant Principal, Brightview School

Why he’s a 2019 Top 40 Under 40: He ignites a love for literacy within staff and students through fantastical means.

Tyson Mastel is a life-long learner. After teaching with Edmonton Catholic Schools for five years, he took his masters in education. Since graduating, feeling possibly over-educated and unemployed, he got a call from Brightview Elementary with Edmonton Public Schools.

Mastel has worn many hats over eight years with Brightview: Social and language arts teacher; curriculum coordinator; teacher librarian; French teacher, for which he travelled to Montreal and Paris to better his fluency; reading intervention teacher; and assistant principal.

Literacy remains his passion, emphasized by his role as president of Northern Alberta Reading Specialists’ Council (NARSC).

“Kids need to see themselves in books,” Mastel says, citing diverse books he brings to school for read-aloud moments or for students to borrow about the LGBTQ2+ community, reconciliation and inter-national cultures. They encourage inclusion and empathy amongst his students, staff and parents.

“I use creative ways to meet the needs of families and promote literacy and reading,” Mastel says, recalling how he and a co-worker brought Boris, a life-sized stuffed bear, into Brightview’s library as a mascot for students to correspond with via handwritten letters. Mastel secretly responds on Boris’s behalf.

“There’s a cycle of poverty, and education is a path out of it for [students],” he says. “I just want them to think big.”

A core belief of Mastel’s is that anything is possible, and he shares that optimism with students through Boris. Mastel cut open the back of the mascot one day, wedged himself into it, and walked out the school doors during Christmas break. Boris “walking” out of the library was later featured in a CTV News report and was even put up on YouTube. Boris then “walked” back into the gym months later during a school assembly. Jaws dropped; hope soared.

This article appears in the November 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton.

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