First Lady | Maria Szymanski
Maria Szymanski has found her home at the University of North Florida. Having dedicated her life to education, UNF’s First Lady loves people and helping students succeed. Often out in the community and on campus promoting UNF, she will tell you it’s a job she loves, especially getting to know the students.
The former elementary teacher enjoys working with young children as well, helping to inspire a lifelong love of learning. She visits UNF’s Preschool, local children’s hospitals and public schools often, and whether she’s reading a book, asking questions or dispensing hugs, there is no doubt that she is passionate about children and education.
A new custom started by the First Lady is “Sweets with the Szymanskis” — a celebration on Valentine’s Day when the President and First Lady ‘spread the love’ around campus passing out treats and sharing their support of UNF’s students. Mrs. Szymanski enjoys talking with students and seeing the excitement and appreciation in their faces. The couple is often seen in the library during finals week bringing snacks to students studying.
There is no doubt that Maria Szymanski thrives in an educational environment. Her love of teaching began as a young child when her family immigrated from Greece to the United States. She credits her second-grade teacher with helping her learn English quickly and making her feel welcome in her new country. Fast forward to the University of North Carolina at Asheville — it was there that the First Lady met the young man who would become her future husband, David Szymanski. She graduated with a psychology degree, but quickly pursued a teaching certificate after realizing her strong desire to be in the classroom. She received a master’s degree in elementary education at Tennessee State University and went on to teach kindergarten for many years as well as Pre-K, third, fourth and fifth grades.
The First Lady has a lifelong gratitude for the opportunities she has received in America, and wants students to know that if they use their talents and strive for excellence, they can achieve anything!
Maria and David Szymanski have three grown children and one grandchild.