Matthew Gancz has dedicated his life to having a positive influence on teenagers, inside and outside of the classroom.
Besides being a teacher, Matthew has been a swimming coach and, with his wife Jenna, leader of a Christian youth ministry. His involvement with teenagers has led to long lasting friendships, as he has seen many former students grow and mature into young adults.
“That really fired me up about teaching and I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
While at Greenfield High School, Matthew also won the Grinspoon Pioneer Valley Teacher of the Year Award the first year he was a teacher. Being recognized for teaching helped solidify his life’s work.
“That really fired me up about teaching and I knew this was what I wanted to do,” he said. “I would teach wherever I had to to be around high school kids. I spend time skiing with kids I taught in 2009. I do rock climbing and hiking with them. It’s great to see them grow and to be able to continue those friendships.”
As the newest member of the science department, Matthew teaches physics. A native of Seekonk, he graduated from Seekonk High School, where he was a swimmer, in 2005. Matthew came to the Pioneer Valley to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he intended to study to be a high school mathematics teacher.
“I knew I wanted to teach high school, but not math.”
“I switched my major due to my interest in kinesiology (the study of human movement),” he said. “I had intentions of coaching.”
While he was at UMass, Matthew became a swimming coach for the Amherst Tritons, a USA Swimming Team member. USA Swimming is the governing body for competitive swimming in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee.
“I wanted to coach at a higher level, but I liked coaching teenagers,” Matthew said.
Jenna and Matthew met when he was a freshman at UMass and married in 2009 after he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. The couple also led the Hampshire County chapter of the Christian youth ministry group Young Life.
When Matthew was a senior in college, he worked as a building monitor at Newton Elementary School in Greenfield.
“The staff here is unbelievable. The community they create is spectacular. It’s palpable.”
“I knew I wanted to teach high school, but not math,” he said.
After graduation, a position opened up at Greenfield High School for a physics teacher. Matthew sped up the process of obtaining his teaching license so he could take the job. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in physics education and continued to teach at GHS.
Matthew and Jenna welcomed their son Luke in the spring 2013.
"Wouldn’t it be cool if a student of mine went out and started a business in Franklin County that employed 500 people?”
In the spring of 2014, Matthew resigned his position at GHS to come to FCTS.
“The motto that students are capable of acquiring academic and vocational skills attracted me,” he said. “The staff here is unbelievable. The community they create is spectacular. It’s palpable.”
Matthew sees infinite possibilities for his students after they graduate.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if a student of mine went out and started a business in Franklin County that employed 500 people,” he said.
Matthew, Jenna and Luke live in Heath, and the couple are expecting their second child. They spend a lot of time at Harriman Reservoir kayaking and swimming. Matthew loves to cook and bake, including homemade breads and tortillas. He’s a woodworker and tends a garden. Jenna does pottery.
The Gancz household is a welcoming place for all visitors.
“We love to have people at our home,” Matthew said. “We’ve had students stay with us. We’ve had friends stay with us in times of happiness and in times of trial. We want our house to be a place of hospitality.”