Mr. Prazeres Finds Ikigai

Tina Zhang, Staff

What is teaching? Being nominated for the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, it seems that Mr. Andrew Prazeres, an Upper School History teacher of Lake Highland Preparatory School, can hand in a satisfactory answer. “This is my fourth year at Lake Highland. Prior to LHPS, I spent two years teaching in Costa Rica, and before that I spent four years teaching in Chicago,” said Mr. Prazeres in his tenth year of teaching, a true milestone for his career as a teacher. When Mr. Prazeres rewinds his life, he thinks about a decade-long journey across half of the North American continent. He thinks about his starting point from Chicago, his metamorphosis in Costa Rica, and Florida, where he settled down. 

“Over the course of my life, I’ve had at least a dozen moments that have altered the trajectory of my life, and almost all of them began with getting on an airplane and going into the unknown,” mentioned Mr. Prazeres while sharing his version of “Into the Unknown” with gratitude and joy.  After teaching in Chicago for four years, Mr. Prazeres relocated his career to Costa Rica. When he described his settlement in Costa Rica, he said in the passionate explorer’s tone that he was, “Building a new life in a new land.” The attitude of Pura Vida life refers to simple living in Costa Rica’s culture, and it fascinated him and, “Left an indelible mark on my soul and forever altered my perspective on reality and my identity,” said Mr. Prazeres. He continued, “In Costa Rica, I reignited my love of life. Those two years forever changed my life.”

His philosophy of education is based on humanity and return. As an educator, “I believe that teaching is valuable and useful to others, and it simultaneously fills me with joy and pleasure,”said Mr. Prazeres. He refers to teaching as his, “Ikigai, a Japanese concept is about finding something that you love, something you are good at, something the world needs, and something for which you can be paid.”

When looking back to his high school years, Mr. Prazeres was gratified that he had become a teacher just like the high school teacher he appreciates. He elaborated, “I was very lost in high school. I was not happy, healthy, or productive. I had a teacher help me find myself. ” Mr. Prazeres extends his gratitude for those who gave a helping hand to him when he needed it by offering the same to more students. He shared his, “Deepest hope is that I’m able to provide to others what that teacher once gave me. Therefore, teaching is not merely about the pure delight of instruction, but also about the potential of uplifting others in an attempt to karmically repay a debt.”

Speaking of his own domain, history, Mr. Prazeres noted that, “The chief responsibility of the historian is to serve humanity.” The “Ikigai” of history education is not constrained in what’s written in textbooks or what’s forgotten under dirt, as Mr. Prazeres emphasized that the best gift from history to humanity is neither ideologies nor doctrines, but rather the enrichment of our capacity to love one another. “More than just increasing our relationship with others, when we learn about who we are as a species, we are studying who we are as individuals. As above, so below. When we study the macro, we study the micro. Therefore, history allows for a genuine and authentic investigation into our own condition.” As a man who devoted most of his lifetime into history studies and teaching, Mr. Prazeres’s passion came from his sense of mission. He noted, “History allows us to recognize that time is a flat circle and that if we have any hope of happiness in this life it is to be found in recognizing and loving our fate. This is a task that historians are uniquely equipped to handle. Especially since only the historian can transcend time and space and surgically extract the wisdom needed for the present moment.”

Mr. Prazeres also believes that hobbies are important when it comes to maintaining the balance for studies and play, as he suggested, “Right now, my three biggest hobbies are learning Dutch, gardening, and watercoloring. Each contributes to my happiness, health, and productivity.” Outside of Mr. Prazeres’s career, his love for his family is brimful. The photo of his wife and daughter on his desk reminds him that, “Every drop of happiness that I have in this life can fit into a jar labeled family. My wife and daughter provide me with happiness, joy, meaning, and purpose in a way that is ineffable.”

The theme of the Prazeres family’s love story is destiny. Mr. Prazeres’ encounter with his wife and his daughter eroded on the same lucky date, “[My wife and I] met randomly in college at a bonfire. After talking to her for 30 minutes it became clear she was the funniest person I had ever met. By the end of the night I was convinced she was the best person I had ever met. Fifteen years later, Marlee was born on the exact date that we met at that bonfire,” said Mr. Prazeres. The wholesome family life fuels him to overcome obstacles in his career, and as a dedicated teacher, there will always be another milestone if not another award for Mr. Prazeres with his Ikigai.

(Above) Mr. Andrew Prazeres’s passion for history education originates with his love of history itself. He disclosed that he has two murals in progress for his new classroom next year, revolving around a quote inspired by the Declaration of Independence, “We The People, Created Equal.”
(Above) “My daughter is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life. Loving her is a privilege, and I am so lucky that I get to love her. When she was born, it felt like a rebirth. It felt like I gave her life, and she gave me life too,” said Mr. Andrew Prazeres, looking at his daughter cloaked in sunlight.
(Above) “She’s my best friend. She’s my better half. Everything that I have in this life, I owe to her. That also includes Marlee since 15 years later[after their first meeting],” said Mr. Andrew Prazeres about his wife. All photos courtesy of Mr. Prazeres. (All photos courtesy of Mr. Prazeres. )