Virtual Inspiration from Local Teachers: 5 Tips to Keep Kids Motivated

As part of our “Love Essentially” series, Jackie Pilossoph helps us navigate the complex world of relationships. Have a question that you would like her to answer? Contact her here, and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

Matt Matkovich and Phil Januszewski describe themselves as just two ordinary guys. Both are thirty-something husbands, fathers, and staff members at a Southwest suburban high school — Matkovich a guidance counselor and Januszewski a chemistry and physics teacher. 

Matt (left) and Phil (right). Photo courtesy of M&P Presentations.

It is the ordinary, however, that Matkovich and Januszewski believe needs to be celebrated, especially these days, with stress reaching new highs due to an upcoming election, and Covid-19 cases getting worse

Stressors like these are the foundation for “Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary,” the duo’s motivational presentation, which they gave last week via Zoom to parents, students and staff of Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South high schools.

“When we’ve attended leadership events in the past, we realized that the speakers who presented almost always encountered a heartbreaking situation they overcame, or they had some lifechanging major accomplishment,” said Matkovich, who has spent 13 years working in education. “So, we thought, ‘What if we focused our presentations on the ordinary things in life?’ We want to be the guys who are normal, but happy as ever.”

“We aim to remind everyone that everyday life is beautiful and we try to do that in an entertaining and fun way,” Januszewski said. “Our main goal is for people to take a mental break from everything and reevaluate their life. That might mean gratitude, self-confidence or leaning on others, especially now, during Covid.”

With high-energy, humor and self-deprecation, the speakers, who have been performing for audiences all over the country since 2013, spent 60 minutes engaging, entertaining, and inspiring attendees.

“This is about finding the positive in a not-so-positive situation,” said Matkovich. “A big part of that is choosing the correct lens to look at life through. At a time like this, it’s hard to do. We help people to retrain your mind to look through the positive lens.”

“Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary,” was the third presentation in a three-part webinar series in which the Glenview/Northbrook school district, in partnership with Compass Health Center, Family Service Center, Youth Services, and CATCH (Community Action Together for Children’s Health), aimed to give students and parents practical strategies to cope during Covid.

Performance in Metamora IL, Operation Snowball in 2020. Photo courtesy of Mackinzey Level.

Eric Etherton is the Assistant Principal of Student Services at Glenbrook North, who played a key role in hosting Matkovich and Januszewski.

“The first two webinars were more about mental health and wellness, so we wanted the third one to be energetic and fun,” said Etherton, who has been in his position for 13 years. “I’ve seen Matt and Phil perform in the past. They are so engaging and kids love them and so we thought they could convey a message of gratitude and staying connected, and do it in a way that’s refreshing and different from other webinars.”

Here are the five main points of the performance:

  1. Foundational Care. “We look at what’s in our control—eating, sleeping, feeling like we are going to accomplish something today,” Matkovich said.
  1. Gratitude. “Appreciate what’s in front of you at this moment,” said Januszewski, who has been in the education field for 16 years. “Your home, your family, your job, your health. Look at little things. 
  1. Confidence. “When you are confident, you tend to surround yourself with healthier people and healthier situations, said Matkovich. “You make better choices which will give you better outcomes.”
  1. Positivity. “It takes practice to look through a positive lens,” said Januszewski. “With positivity, things in life go better for you and you spread more kindness. We’re not here to lecture. For every situation, we try to own it and find the best way to find a good outcome in any situation, even if it isn’t the greatest.
  1. An all-inclusive mentality. “We wake up each morning and we make a promise to ourselves that we are going to be the best version of ourselves as husbands, fathers, teachers and friends,” Matkovich said. “If someone takes even one of the tips we share and it makes their life better, we feel like our mission is accomplished.”

Januszewski said it’s understandable to be nervous about Covid, but important to remember that there is so much out of our control.

“Nothing we present is earth-shattering, but sometimes people need a reminder that there’s a lot we can do to make the situation better,” he said.

“While we are all experiencing our own concerns and anxiety, at times, hopefully we can recognize that there are still good things happening in our lives and remember how to be appreciative of those things so we aren’t totally consumed with the stress and fear of the future,” Etherton said.

More from Better:

Jackie Pilossoph is a former television journalist and newspaper features reporter. The author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially, Pilossoph is also the creator of the divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers.

  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate