Barrington 220 Staff Profile: Mauricio Mata how the u.s. army veteran's passion for service shines at countryside elementary school

Some would call Mauricio Mata a silent hero at Countryside Elementary School. The head custodian for the last seven years, his mission in life is to serve others and teach respect and kindness. His cheerful disposition and positive attitude are contagious—kids and adults can’t help but smile when greeting him in the hallways of the school.

“He really puts his heart and soul into everything he does,” Countryside Nurse Mary Anne Wesoloski said when seeing Mata in the school’s lobby. “There’s no such thing as a job half way with him. He just goes beyond.”

Barrington 220 School District is home for Mata, having attended Sunny Hill Elementary School, Hickory Hill Middle School and eventually graduating from Barrington High School. Mata didn’t have an easy childhood. He was bullied at school, but managed to channel negative energy into something positive in his life.

“My dad told us to smile at those people and tell them to have a nice day,” Mata said. “I learned to be the opposite of the bullies. My dad said if you want to be better than them, beat them in sports.”

Mata was a star athlete at Barrington High School, becoming the captain of the cross country team as a young sophomore. He earned 7 varsity letters during his high school career.

The oldest child in his family, Mata was drafted into the U.S. Army shortly after graduating from Barrington High School. He went to Ft. Louis, Washington and Ft. Jackson, South Carolina for training before being deployed to Kaiserslautern, Germany during the Vietnam War. He worked in the mail room for the U.S. Army, a position he held for two years.

Mauricio Mata holds a photo of himself when he was a U.S. Army soldier.

Mata (far right) worked in the mail room while stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army.

Photo memories from Mata's time in the U.S. Army.

Mata (right) in the mailroom where he worked while stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army.

Mata hard at work while in the U.S. Army.

“I saw more about life while I was in Germany than I’ve ever experienced before,” Mata said. “There was a lot of hurt that I experienced there.”

After finishing his duties in the Army, Mata returned to the Chicago area and got married, eventually having a son and daughter. He worked as a professional painter for many years until a door was opened to him in 2009 to work at Countryside Elementary School.

Mata's office is filled with Coca-Cola memorabilia. Both students and staff members enjoy looking at his collection.

“I love what I do. I love to serve and I’m still serving here,” Mata said. “I think I’m helping the kids learn respectful behavior. I have kids that help me at lunch time and I’m always telling them to be nice to your teacher, love each other the right way. They laugh at first, but I keep repeating it. I want to be a good role model to them.”

“I love what I do. I love to serve and I’m still serving here,” Mata said. “I think I’m helping the kids learn respectful behavior. I want to be a good role model to them."

At 65 years old, Mata is thinking about his future at Countryside and what retirement might look like. He’d like to continue working until he turns 70, and then focus his efforts on caring for his wife and his family.

“I’m trying to stay as in shape as I can be to be flexible and healthy, and also really be there for my wife,” he said. “I’ve gone through many bumps and bruises, but who hasn’t? Life is a learning process.”

Created By
Morgan Delack
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