Feature

Brophy Sustainability Pioneer, Patty Mazier

Story and photos by Kathy Mabry

On the east side of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Math and Science, Ms. Mazier bends over Home Depot buckets with a cluster of freshman boys leaning in around her. A few minutes prior, the students had bounded out of the Piper building with buckets, handfuls of organic material and other items to aid them in the composting process that is part of the AP Seminar: Environmental Studies course she teaches. She moves from group to group, reminding them to measure temperature in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit as they check the decomposition of the material — sometimes laughing at their reaction to the earthy matter as she prompts them to take pictures and record results. 

In an earlier conversation, Ms. Mazier had smiled when describing her students’ first experience working with dirt and organic matter. “They aren’t used to getting their hands dirty,” she said. “Even when they started with me in Brophy’s summer SHEP program (an honors biology program with a substantial field component in northern Arizona), they had to be encouraged to venture into the creeks. For some, it was their first experience away from home and they are asking, ‘Do I really have to wade into the water and catch something with this net?’ But they end up loving it and watching them get comfortable catching crawdads and insects and enjoying nature is a favorite memory from each class.”

A science teacher at Brophy since 1999, Ms. Mazier has taught all levels of chemistry, biology and environmental science. During the summer, she also teaches SHEP Biology, an honors-level freshman course that includes a weeklong field study. SHEP students then take another course that Mrs. Mazier teaches — AP Seminar: Environmental Studies which is the first course needed for the AP Capstone Diploma. Both SHEP and AP Seminar are rigorous classes. AP Seminar is a college-level course and students meet the challenge. As seniors they often tell her that SHEP was their hardest class at Brophy. AP Seminar is a tough course as well and requires students to analyze and evaluate information and use credible sources to write and present evidence-based arguments on environmental topics.

Ms. Mazier’s first love has always been environmental science and sustainability. “I graduated from Xavier in 1975, and from 1973 through college, I worked with the Youth Conservation Corps in Prescott National Forest, a program developed to teach teens environmental stewardship by working on conservation projects. My supervisor was Kevin Kapp, Brophy class of ’70. He inspired my love of the environment and my desire to teach which led me to earning a degree in secondary education in science from Northern Arizona University.”

“Ms. Mazier’s first love has always been environmental science and sustainability.”

A teacher for 44 years, Ms. Mazier began teaching AP Environmental Science at Brophy in 2009. She recalls her first memorable teaching moment that year was taking her class to the Tres Rios Wetlands, a riparian restoration project that further cleans water from the City of Phoenix wastewater treatment plant before it’s released into the Salt, Gila and Agua Fria rivers. “My students were awestruck by its natural beauty,” she said. “They felt like they were in the Florida Everglades; they didn’t know Tres Rios existed.”

She continues, “I enjoy students learning firsthand about the world, whether it’s going to the City of Phoenix Transfer Station and Materials Recovery Facility to learn the reality of recycling or going on immersion trips.”

Ms. Mazier started the Florida Keys immersion trip in 2011 to teach students about the effects of climate change on the coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean and how this great area of biodiversity is being destroyed. In 2013, she took the first group of students on the Navajo/Hopi immersion. “We stayed at St. Jude Parish in Tuba City, helping out in their community gardens and visiting sites where the students learned of the great respect Native Americans have for the land.”

But these immersions and everything she does in the classroom are only part of her contributions to the community. She has gone to Guatemala on the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos trip, to Kino Border Initiative in Nogales and on the Haiti Chances for Children trip. She is the longtime Key Club moderator and mentions that group’s work with Feed My Starving Children as leading to a full-circle moment when she served food from that organization to children in Haiti. She organizes the annual Brophy Science Fair and volunteers as a judge for First Tech Challenge, a competition hosted by Brophy’s robotics team. And when she can, she ties in co-curricular activities with environmental work, describing a day spent with Key Club students volunteering at the Rio Salado Audubon Center where they dug homes and made tunnels for burrowing owls being relocated from a housing project.

She also enjoys following the careers of Brophy students who have gone on to work in sustainability. She recounts several: Aaron Redman ’00 started the in-class recycling program when he was in Ms. Jane Johnston’s AP Environmental Science class. He is now a professor at ASU’s School of Sustainability. Peter Rau ’05 works for a Paris firm that provides sustainability ratings for global clients. Adam Fishman ’10 co-founded Onora Global, a company that promotes gratitude-based environmental change. And there is Cooper Davis ’10, a current faculty member who teaches Ecological Justice Leadership and is Brophy’s sustainability coordinator.

“Cooper has made it a point to thank me for my early efforts to make Brophy more sustainable,” Ms. Mazier notes. “Even before there was a formal sustainability effort, my classes would take out the classroom recyclables once a week and bring them to the recycle dumpsters. We organized an annual electronic recycling drive; we celebrated Earth Day and Earth Hour. A project with a graduate student from ASU’s School of Sustainability led to water-filling stations, improved recycling bins, better window insulation and some sensored lighting.”

She continues, “With Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’—Care for Our Common Home in 2015, Jesuit schools really began making a concerted effort toward sustainability. That was followed by Care for Our Common Home as part of the Apostolic Preferences in 2019 and the Laudato Si’ Action Plan in 2021. At Brophy, Cooper and his Student Climate Coalition have done a wonderful job.”

Ms. Mazier hears from other alumni as well. Daniel Pisarcik ’02, a former student in her Honors Chemistry class and now an engineer who works at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant spoke to her AP Environmental Science class. “I want my students to know how we get the energy we use,” she says. Alex Fredrickson ’08, also a former Honors Chemistry student and now a physicist, dropped in on a Friday afternoon when he was in town. Patty smiles recalling his science fair project, “Electromagnetic Efficiency Comparisons.” “He compared a railgun and a coilgun that shot projectiles across my classroom. He won the AZSEF and was invited to the International Science Fair in Atlanta his junior year. I accompanied him on the plane and on the flight he insisted on showing me how to text, a skill I had not acquired yet.”

“My hope is that something they have learned in my class will move them into action that will benefit God’s creation.”

Ms. Mazier reflects on her time here, remembering not just the work but moments sometimes funny and, often, unforgettable. She chuckles recalling the time a student ate part of a frog on a dare during frog dissection and ended up at the pediatrician’s office for a dose of syrup of ipecac; guinea pigs mating in biology class; and an exchange student triggering the emergency sprinklers which doused him with water. She grows more serious when recalling playing with children at orphanages in Guatemala and Haiti, viewing critically endangered stag horn coral with her students in the Florida Keys, spotting condors over the Grand Canyon followed by the students excitedly looking up their numbers, and listening to stories of immigrants at KBI.

It is no wonder that she was called to a teaching vocation. The Jesuit ethos runs deep in Ms. Mazier’s family and many close family members are Jesuit educated. Her father, Alan Bayham Sr., attended Loyola Chicago. She and her siblings attended the Jesuit parish school, St. Francis Xavier, as did her sons. Four brothers (Alan Bayham ’69, Frank Bayham ’70, Ted Bayham ’78 and Tom Bayham ’83) are Brophy graduates, and her sons, Guillermo ’02, Daniel ’04 and Lucas ’09 are also alumni with Guillermo going on to graduate from Regis and Daniel from Loyola New Orleans — both Jesuit universities.

As a student at Xavier in the 70s, Ms. Mazier was able to take classes at Brophy, including Physics, Advanced Chemistry, Greek, Social Justice and Native American Theology. “They were some of my most formative classes,” she says.

Ms. Mazier could not be happier in continuing on a Jesuit path. “The goals of Jesuit education are to be open to growth, intellectually competent, religious, loving and committed to doing justice. My hope is that something they have learned in my class will move them into action that will benefit God’s creation. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to live such a deep and meaningful life, and I hope, convey a sense of the wonder and the divine of the natural world to my students. I can think of nothing better.”