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Teaching Wasn’t the First Plan for a Westfield Charter Academy Dean, But Now It’s the Only Plan

Working in education wasn’t Ninfa Mazzola’s initial career plan, but now she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

The original idea – be a lawyer. She had the opportunity to be part of a Ford Motor Company program called Junior Achievement and went into classrooms to teach economic lessons. After working with some third graders, her career outlook changed forever.

“I fell in love working with kids,” she said. “Being that person that they felt comfortable with and could trust and wanted to learn from, I said, ‘You know what, I want to be a teacher.’”

Mazzola didn’t look back after that fortuitous occasion and has been with National Heritage Academies (NHA) since 2004. She taught first grade at Taylor Exemplar and special education, but knew she wanted to get into leadership and has been a dean at Westfield Charter Academy since it opened in 2019.

Ninfa Mazzola posing with others.
Ninfa Mazzola was recently named a Dean of Excellence award finalist.

Her impact has been evident and was reflected by her being a nominee for NHA’s Dean of Excellence award. Her husband and two children were able to keep her in the dark about the nomination, which was disguised as a schoolwide announcement that turned into a surprise assembly.

“It was very exciting,” she said. ‘There was confetti, and all the emotions of seeing my family there being supportive, it was all so very humbling for me. I’m not one who seeks a lot of recognition or attention, so to be recognized was really great.”

Mazzola tries to get to know each Westfield family to create an environment in which students feel comfortable and aren’t afraid to make mistakes. She has cherished helping novice readers become bookworms, which isn’t lost on students long after they move on.

Recently, she was picking up bagels for Westfield staff and was recognized by the employee ringing her up at the cash register. As a first grader she had learned to read under Mazzola’s tutelage and now was graduating high school as her class valedictorian. It was a formative moment that propelled the student to greater heights, making for an even more uplifting epilogue to their time from so many years ago.

A sign congratulating Ninfa Mazzola.
Ninfa Mazzola is dean of lower elementary at Westfield Charter Academy.

“She said, ‘If you didn’t make that impact in my life, I don’t know where I would have been because you were the first person to teach me to read,’” she said. “That was mind-blowing and so amazing. It made me proud of her and myself.”

Mazzola is appreciative of the community-based mentality at Westfield and the support that’s available working at NHA. That attitude and those benefits have created a learning environment that has transformed the lives of so many at Westfield, which has outperformed the local district. 

“There’s a sense of community and family here,” she said, “Westfield in particular is very special because we opened this building. Having that experience, to see what where we were and where we're going is really rewarding to me. I’m proud to be part of this organization.”

Keep up the excellent work, Mrs. Mazzola!

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About Westfield Charter Academy
Westfield Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Redford, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through 6th grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 99 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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