Daniel Krysa, a founding teacher at Miami Norland Senior High School, would often say of teaching, “If you don’t love kids, don’t go into teaching. You’ve got to enjoy the kids.”
Daughters Patricia and Donna remember their father saying this about his chosen profession. For Krysa, who died May 8 at 91, the classroom was about teaching the whole person, not just repeating facts from textbooks.
“He was inspired by his own teachers and he just loved teaching,” his daughter Donna McVay said. “He was a historian. He loved inspiring young people.”
Daughter Patricia Krysa adds, “When we were growing up we would run into students in North Miami, where we lived, and they would say he’s such a great teacher and everyone was trying to get into his class. When you have a father or a mother as a teacher, who knows what they think of you? But we always got nice, unsolicited feedback about him. He really did love teaching and loved . . . helping shape and mold their characters in a very gentle way.”
On the guestbook for his obituary, many of Krysa’s students posted their remembrances of his classroom at Norland, where he taught social studies, history, government and economics. Krysa taught at Norland from the day it opened in the fall of 1958 in Miami Gardens to his retirement in 1984 — 26 years. After retiring, he moved to Pompano Beach with his wife.
Vickie Ionnides Vrotsos, a student from the Class of ’65, called Krysa a “gentle giant” — a father figure to a young girl who said she had no father. “I will never forget how he looked after me all those years.” Another, David Bloom, credited him with his love of reading, a 50-year passion that “opened up a new world for me.”
Two of his students, including Dr. Stanley Skopit of North Miami Beach, would become Krysa’s doctors.
Skopit wrote in the online guestbook: “As a recent newcomer to the U.S. from Canada in the early 1960s, Dan made me feel most welcome to the Miami Norland Senior High community. He was the consummate teacher. After changing careers from teaching to the field of medicine, it was my honor and distinct privilege to be part of Dan’s medical care. The truth be told, I looked forward to his visits to my office because it gave both of us a chance to reminisce about our past connection at Miami Norland. We talked endlessly about fellow classmates of mine or former faculty members. He truly brightened my day.”
Krysa was born Oct. 22, 1924, in Egypt, a township in Pennsylvania, to Ukrainian immigrants. His parents’ and grandparents’ culture turned into a lifelong inspiration. Krysa helped develop the membership of the Ukrainian-American Club of Miami and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, off Red Road and Flagler Street. He sang tenor with the church choir and supported the dance groups at the club, especially during Oktoberfest.
One of my earliest memories is of Uncle Danny teaching me to polka when I was 3 years old. Whenever I think of him, I remember that joyful experience. It always brings a smile to my face and to my heart and so did he.
Micul Ann Krysa Morse, writing in a guest book about Daniel Krysa.
“He was one of the pioneers in those organizations for them to be fruitful,” said daughter McVay. “He tried to keep their culture alive.”
At 17, after graduation from Whitehall High School in Pennsylvania, where he was captain of the baseball, basketball and football teams, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.
As a member of the VMF 217 fighter squadron of the Marine Corps, Krysa was a part of the Pacific Ocean Theater of World War II, fighting with the Allies against Japanese forces. He was part of the campaign to consolidate the Northern Solomon Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago (or New Guinea campaign) operations in 1942, and the capture and occupation of Guam in 1944.
“He would never want anyone to make him out to be a hero — he was a modest man — but I always marvel at how quickly that generation had to grow up between the Depression and the war,” Patricia Krysa said. “At the tender age of 18, he was a crew chief and was always proud he never lost a pilot during World War II.”
After that war, Krysa remained with the Marine Corps, as a reserve, and was called to duty during the Korean War and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.
Following his service, he graduated from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and married Anna Kishpan. They raised two daughters after moving to North Miami in 1955. There, he coached Pony League Graduate baseball and helped open the doors at Norland.
Krysa often participated in reunions of his Norland students.
“You fueled in me an interest in government and history that led to my eventually serving 20 years in the Air Force,” Butch Hayes of Dayton, Ohio, wrote in Krysa’s guestbook.
Krysa is survived by his two daughters. Services were held. Donations can be made to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church or the Ukrainian-American Club of Miami.