Mattie Stepanek Multimedia Lesson Plan

Young Poet and Peacemaker Hero Mattie Stepanek passed away on the morning of June 22, 2004. Mattie’s poems of peace and hope have touched millions of lives; his heartsongs will continue to reach people of all ages around the world for decades to come.

Mattie Stepanek birthday
Credit: Karen Derrico

MY HERO recommends reading the following stories, in which Mattie's mom, Jeni Stepanek, shares memories of her son.

Dr. Jeni Stepanek

By: Slater Jewell-Kemker

MY HERO's Slater Jewell-Kemker interviews Dr. Jeni Stepanek in an in-depth interview.

My Son, Mattie J. T. Stepanek

By: Jeni Stepanek

"Before my son died, he made me promise him that I would do whatever I could not to give in to sorrow and grief and the agonizing weight of an empty lap and empty arms."

Students watch the MY HERO film of Jim Hawkins, a board member of Children's Hospice International, sharing his memories of Mattie Stepanek.

Jim Hawkins remembers Mattie

Producer: MY HERO

Children's Hospice Volunteer Jim Hawkins talks about his heroes, Mattie and Jeni Stepanek. (6:25 minutes) 

Students read the following stories to learn more about Mattie Stepanek.

Mattie Stepanek

By: Jim Hawkins

Mattie Stepanek is a hero to people of all ages around the world. [This story is also available in Spanish and French.]

Mattie Stepanek

By: Leah

After analyzing Karen Derrico's painting of Mattie and his dog Micah, students are encouraged to create a piece of art representing their hero, using the medium of their choice and including words that exemplify their hero's characteristics or accomplishments. 

Mattie and Micah

By: Karen Derrico

Collage painting of Mattie Stepanek with his dog, Micah, donated to the 2006 Heartsongs Gala, an annual event held in Mattie's honor.

Discussion Question and Activity

1. Mattie Stepanek was able to achieve his goals while living with a disability. Do you know someone who works with their disability and inspires you to make a positive difference in the world? Share his or her story with MY HERO. 
2. Mattie's hero was Jimmy Carter. Mattie didn't wait to become an adult before exemplifying his hero. Who is your hero, and how can you start exemplifying him or her right now? Share the story with MY HERO.
3. In the excerpt of Mattie's poem in Jim Hawkins' essay, Mattie says we can be champions if we live as winners and members of a team, with a hopeful spirit. Who do you know who fits this profile? How does he or she inspire you?

Learning Outcomes

After learning more about Mattie Stepanek, students will be inspired and empowered to overcome obstacles in their own lives and reach for worthy goals in the present. 


Click the image to learn about the winners of the Mattie Stepanek 2021 and 2020 Poetry Contests and read their poems. 

2021 Poetry Contest Winners
Credit: MY HERO
Mattie J.T. Stepanek Poetry Award winners
Credit: MY HERO

Learn more about Mattie and his mother, Jeni Stepanek, by watching these films.

Oprah's Surprise Visit to Jeni Stepanek

Produced by:Oprah Winfrey Network

"Mattie was one of the most authentic, loving souls I have ever known," Oprah says. "Jeni instinctively knew how to foster and encourage this precious gift to the world." (6:49 minutes)

Jeni Stepanek Accepts the 2016 Humanitarian Award

Produced by:Jeni Stepanek

"Hope is real, peace is possible, life is worthy." -- Jeni Stepanek (3:46 minutes)

Teachers: Visit MY HERO for additional curated multimedia resources honoring Mattie Stepanek

Mattie Stepanek Curated Multimedia Organizer



Laura Nietzer

The Mattie Stepanek lesson plan was created by MY HERO Educational Outreach Director Laura Nietzer.

Related Links

Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation
Credit: Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation

Learn About a New Hero Every Day of the Year: Use the MY HERO Calendar in the Classroom

Students can share their Hero Essays, Films and Art through our Create Program

Organizer created on 6/27/2019 2:48:55 PM by Laura Nietzer

Last edited 6/28/2021 4:29:18 PM by Laura Nietzer