Mark Wilson Brings History to Life

Mark WilsonPart two of our Teacher of the Year celebration is a Q and A with two time Teacher of the Year at York, Mark Wilson. Part one was about Young Life teacher, Sheree Suchma. Mrs Suchma is a pretty tough act to follow but you will see how Wilson can hang with the best of them.  

College attended: degrees earned
Sam Houston State 
2004 – Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science

What motivated you to become a teacher?
The MONEY (just kidding)!!

I had such great teachers growing up that I’m pretty sure I decided I wanted to become a teacher by the seventh or eighth grade. Two teachers come to mind early on that really influenced what I wanted to become when I graduated from high school, Mr. Heinzen my sixth grade social studies teacher and Mrs. Taylor my sixth grade reading teacher. They made learning fun and exciting, and I can still remember some of the activities and engaging lessons that they taught me!

What was your path to York?
Well when I went to Sam Houston State I was assigned to complete my student teaching at The Woodlands High School and York Junior High. Right away I could tell that junior high was the right place for me, and luckily I was offered a job the next school year!

What do you teach at York? What kind of curriculum is involved? You got Teacher of the year because you are special. What do you do that is special? How and why are you so good at relating to kids?
I teach eighth grade Social Studies, both Pre-AP (advanced placement) and inclusion (a mix of special education and regular education students). Our curriculum covers United States History from the exploration period up to Reconstruction after the Civil War. We are a TAKS tested subject so we try to get through our entire curriculum about two weeks before our big test day! What do I do that is so special? I really don’t think I do anything that is special. I love the subject I teach, I’m sure that helps! History was always easy for me as a kid. I kind of viewed it like story time…I was always a sucker for a good story, still am!
 
Describe why you like teaching at York
Three reasons:
1. The students! I believe we have the best students in Conroe ISD. I am amazed each year at what these kids can produce in my classroom.
2. My colleagues! I couldn’t ask for a better group of coworkers to work with: my academic team, department, Mrs. Plagens my co-teacher, and everyone else here at YJHS!!
3. The technology! York has the latest and greatest of everything technology related, and if we don’t, Mr. Fuller is always up for getting it for us!

 
Your opinion in regards to how the CISD operates and do you think teachers get enough support?
I have no complaints about how CISD operates and the support we receive is great. When I was a new teacher, I remember going to the Novice Teacher Academy. This really helps out the new teachers with lessons, classroom management, and sort of a crash course as to what to expect your first year of teaching. Conroe ISD provides all types of other in services that are usually worthwhile and there are a lot of district employees that work behind the scenes to put those together for us! I’ll also say that our technology department provides us with some great resources..(if you can’t tell I am a technology nerd)!
 
It doesn’t seem like you can teach every kid the same. How do you teach a class of students the same material but still manage to cater to the various intelligent levels, emotional levels, etc…?
You would be correct, Mr. Sarant, you can’t teach every kid the same….my job would be gravy if I could do that! Each year I face that same question you just asked, “How do I teach a class of students the same material but manage to cater to the various intelligence and emotional levels?” In my classroom, it’s about the students buying into US History. I have to convince each student that this is their history, not just some story that we are forced to learn! I try to make it fun for everyone! Conroe ISD focuses a lot of its in services on differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction is a term that all teachers have learned to know and adapt to, it means that each student learns differently so we must teach to their learning styles. My lessons hopefully reflect that idea of differentiated instruction. One day you might walk into my classroom and see performances, presentations, or songs. The next day you might see students discussing an issue in groups. And yes, there are still those days where we do the old fashioned seat work. Managing both PreAP classes and Inclusion classes at the same time can sometimes be a difficult task, but I’m always up for the challenge. It all seems worth it when those eighth graders leave York with the things I have taught them!
 
Already a two time recipient (2007/08 and 2009/10) of the Teacher of the Year award, Mark Wilson is one of many excellent teachers located in the swamp. Principal Jeff Fuller and his gang of educators at York junior high are the gateway to success for our young people.

Like all teachers, I try to make sure that each of my students know that I care…not only about their grade but about their life in general. I think it is important for a student to see their teachers at their extra curricular activities, and I usually try to say hello if I see them out in the community. I think most teachers will agree that teaching is not an 8-4 job between the months of August and May.

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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Sheree Suchma Talks About Teaching

Sheree SuchmaLast week, I got into a debate with a friend about why the Oak Ridge area is turning out so many quality kids. We both agreed it all starts at home, as we must have a pile of great parenting going on around here. However, it isn’t all about just what goes on at home. Young people need good leaders to learn from away from home and we can thank whoever hires these great teachers in the ORHS feeder zone for the great people we pass our children off to during the day.

 Back in the swamp at York, we have two excellent teachers who earned Teacher of the Year honors, Shereee Suchma and Mark Wilson. Starting with Teen Leadership teacher Sheree Suchma, this is Part One of a two part series where we look into why these two teachers are Teachers of the Year. Keep in mind that both teachers indicated they do not believe they are any better than any of the other great teachers at York.

 Enjoy Sheree Suchma:

 When I think of the fact that I have taught 34 years. which is over half of my life, you would think I could write several volumes on my philosophy of education.  I can tell you that will never happen. Everyone that is an educator could definitely write a book just on our experiences alone, but I’m summing up my philosophy into the Top Ten Things I know about Teaching (thank you for making it easier, David Letterman).

 Number Ten:  Be kind to the custodial staff.  We all know how important these people are to each of us.  Have you ever had one of those days that things start off wrong just because your floor didn’t get vacuumed for some reason the night before?  Well, it has happened to me and it ruined my morning (maybe I’m a little OCD-obsessive compulsive diosorder). Seriously, I have met some of the nicest custodial people in the world when I stay late after school as they take such pride in their work and we are lucky to have these people clean up our messes when we leave for home.

Number Nine :  Be kind to the paraprofessionals in your school.  I know this makes common sense, but somehow there are teachers who don’t realize the importance of these people and are rude to them or ignore them. These wonderful people keep our school running smoothly and for very little pay compared to the teachers. Why someone would be rude to a Xerox aide who has to deal with hundreds of teachers, some begging for copies first thing in the morning, is beyond me.  Just a smile, a kind note, or a piece of candy with a thank you would go far in making them feel appreciated.

Number Eight:  Share, share, share!  Some of the greatest joy there is can be in knowing you helped someone else with an idea for their classroom. The older I get the more I realize that I wouldn’t have made it this far without the help of others.  Of course, I know that most of them are still not teaching, leaving me as the old “wise “ one now, so I get to mentor others and they really listen. I guess that is a privilege of having years of experience. I feel that it is a responsibility and a joy to do this. As I think back, I have mentored many teachers over the years, just as experienced teachers once helped me. I even taught a Yankee from Michigan to teach Texas History one time and he learned to appreciate it as much as I did. I have actually had the privilege of helping several of my own sons get started in education and there is no greater honor to a parent. Whether it is sharing a lesson plan, an idea on how to deal with behavior, or just a pat on the back when someone is having a rough day… be there for others around you.

Number Seven:  Keep changing with the times.  In 34 years I’ve had to change quite a few times, just with testing names alone ( remember TAAS… ) . I always try to keep some of the techniques or ideas that worked for me , but I think a teacher should always be willing to try something new too.  Technology alone has changed so much since I started…would you believe that we used to average grades in our handwritten gradebook with a ruler to keep you on the right line and a calculator? Yes, it took awhile to average 175 students’ grades. Many new trends and great ideas have come along in my teaching career. Make the most of the new ones and keep doing the things that work.

Number Six:  Love your students.  This is one trend or idea that should never change. If you don’t love your students then you need to get out of education.  In the years I’ve taught I can only name a handful of teachers that fall under this category of not liking kids. After all, we are not doing this to get rich in monetary terms, but I know I am rich in love.  Every time I read a note that a student writes to me or get a hug (yes, when you are an older teacher you can hug students and no one cautions you to be careful anymore) then I know I am a wealthy woman.  Some students I teach need to hear that someone besides their parents love and care for them because at the age I teach many times they don’t think their parents know anything anyway and they won’t listen to them.  I’ve learned to tell students out loud that I love them…it makes all the difference in the world and it’s not hard to say if you mean it.  I feel that teachers need to teach the child, not just the subject, because isn’t the lesson of how to live your life the most important lesson of all?

Number Five:  Let your students’ parents know that you care. Lots of problems can be headed off if you let the parents know that you are on their side and that you truly care about their child too. It’s hard to stay angry with a teacher who loves and cares about their child and shows it. A friendly phone call, a positive note home ….these are little things that go a long way to making the school year easier.

Number Four :  Learn to admit it when you are wrong and apologize. I’ve gone home some days thinking about something that I said or that happened in the day with a certain class and then made up my mind to go back and apologize the next day to the entire class or even to a student in front of the class (much more effective than just to the individual themselves) .  There is nothing bad about admitting we make mistakes- it is a valuable part of the learning process.

Number Three:  Laugh everyday.  Now this I can do well.  I’m always doing something like tripping over my feet or falling off of my stool…so learn to laugh at yourself.  But this also includes laughing with the students about something funny that happens.  My junior high students bring delight into my life daily.  Some of the students I teach don’t have much to laugh about at home in their lives and if I can lighten their load just a little bit every day then I’ve done my job well.

Number Two:   Have respect for others.  It sounds simple, but I know many people that fail to do this.  This means have respect for the administration even when they plan a fire drill during your test day, the other teachers even though you don’t agree with the way they teach, and most importantly for the students even when they are driving you crazy because they don’t understand what you are trying to teach. This means showing respect in simple ways like not chewing gum if you tell them not to, not drinking your coffee in front of them or answering your phone because they can’t do that, but most importantly in the way you talk to your students and the way you treat them daily.  A wise principal once told me to teach all students as you wanted your own children to be taught and treat students as you wanted your own children to be treated. That philosophy has governed my teaching for years and has never once failed me.

Number One:   Be an inspiration to others.  I give a smile and a handshake to each student daily to start off the class right.  I have many posters in my room, but my favorite is “Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference”.  I don’t know any better lesson for life than that.  I try to keep a positive attitude for my students, my colleagues, and even when I discuss my job to others.  I want everyone to know this is the career I have chosen proudly and I know that every day I do make a little difference in someone’s life.

 That sums up the top ten things I think are important about teaching.  My students would tell you  that I am so long winded that I could list 110 things easily and they would be right. I feel very honored to be chosen to represent my school.

 Sheree Suchma is married to another great Teen Leadership teacher in David Suchma, who teaches at the high school. It’s safe to say the Suchmas are two reasons why quality people are being turned out at an alarming rate in this area.

 Go War Eagles!

 Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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