June 15, 2007
School Leader is One of Our Own
Superintendent Mark Mow is beginning his 50th year with Elkhart Community Schools. Now, before you start doing the math to figure out how old he is, you need to know he's been a teacher, coach, and administrator with the district only since 1970.
But he also spent 13 years attending Elkhart Schools, putting him at the half-century mark!
Mark Mow is a 1965
graduate of Elkhart
Mow began his long career in education as a kindergarten student at Beck Elementary. He attended first and second grades at Roosevelt, third through sixth grades at Weston, and seven through nine at the brand new West Side Middle School. He graduated from Elkhart High School in 1965.
Mow looks back with fondness at his school years, recalling a variety of experiences. "I tried to be a musician, but I realized early on I had limited talent," he said of his half year in band. He didn't fare much better in choir. "My eighth-grade choir teacher asked me to mouth the words at our concert," he reported.
But he found his niche at Elkhart High, where he was a member of the tennis team, Varsity Club, National Honor Society, and Junior Achievement. After school, which ended at 1 p.m. for him, he worked at The Elkhart Truth.
After graduation, Mow attended Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., for three years, and then transferred to Indiana University for his final year. He received his degree in the spring of 1970 and began teaching science at North Side Middle School that fall.
Brookdale, serving as the principal there until the school closed in 1984. He spent the next two years as principal of Heritage Middle School in the Middlebury school district.
Mow, left, was the first varsity tennis coach at Memorial in 1973.
"I enjoyed science a lot," Mow said of his decision to pursue a career in education. "I enjoyed my high school and college classes and I realized I would like to teach science.
"My dad was a teacher and principal in Elkhart," he added, "so I had grown up with education as a background."
Mow began climbing the administrative ladder in 1976, starting out as an assistant principal at North Side. The following year, he transferred to
He returned to Elkhart in 1986 as director of business operations. "It was an opportunity to get back to Elkhart," Mow said of his move to central administration. "Also, Keith Dougherty was the business manager. I had worked with him before and was anxious to do so again.
"He was such a good mentor," Mow continued. "I learned a lot from him."
Mow said getting into central administration was an opportunity to stay in education, but to do some different kinds of things. "I enjoyed it immensely," he said, adding he's liked every job he's had.
By this time, Mow had earned a master's degree in science education from Western Michigan University, and an administrative license from Indiana University South Bend and Ball State University. He began working on his superintendent's license from Ball State in the late 1990s while he served as Elkhart's assistant superintendent for business. He took the reins at ECS in 2002.
Mow said he didn't begin thinking about leading a school corporation until he became assistant superintendent. "I realized then it would be something I might like to do if I ever got the opportunity," he stated. "I looked forward to working with the entire educational system, rather than just the business end," he explained. "I wanted to get back to the instructional process again. I feel very fortunate for this opportunity."
Mow said he also feels fortunate he had such positive role models along the way, including his teachers in his younger years. "There have been quite a few educators who have impacted my life," he said, listing elementary teacher Bill Mellish, high school teachers Russ Busse and Gene Hungate, and middle school teachers Bill Cavanaugh, Mr. Glass, Mrs. Redden, and Paul Stemm, who is now a member of the Elkhart Board of School Trustees.
"I'm still working hard for Paul," he noted with a chuckle.
A Cleveland student reads her
original story to Mow.
Mow said some of his fondest memories of his professional career are of the time he spent in the classroom, particularly in the science lab. "The kids learned a lot and it was always enjoyable," Mow recalled. "I enjoyed doing the "Mr. Wizard" type of lessons.
"The other thing about the labs," he continued, "is I could gear the class to students who were academically gifted, but the lessons were also appropriate for the students who were academically challenged. It allowed me to meet everyone's needs. I felt really good about that."
Mow also has pleasant memories of the four years he spent coaching varsity tennis at Memorial High School. "I coached Memorial's first tennis team," he noted. "In fact, that team won the school's first athletic trophy. The trophy is still over there in the display case."
When he's not working, Mow and his wife Kathy, who is the district's intern counseling coordinator, like to travel. Most of their trips are spent visiting their five children, and four granddaughters, who are spread throughout the country.
Mow with his CARES buddy, Reese
Kern, and the child's mother at a
Woodland awards assembly.
Mow said the most difficult part of being superintendent of Elkhart Schools is letting his employees know how much they're appreciated. "Our school staff is incredibly good and incredibly dedicated," he stated. "The hardest thing for me to do is let them know how valuable they are. With 2,000 people, it's hard to get that message out."
Conversely, the best part of his job is getting to see these incredible staff members in action, he continued. "When I do get to visit our classrooms, I'm continually impressed by what I see," he stated.
He added the highlight of his week is the time he spends in a Woodland Elementary classroom tutoring and mentoring a young student through the CARES program. "This is the time in my schedule I look forward to most," he said, explaining it gives meaning and purpose to all of his responsibilities as superintendent.
If he could share one thing about Elkhart Schools with the public, especially with families considering a move to Elkhart, it's that this is a community that values children and values education.
"I want people to know we have the ability to meet the needs of all kids, whether they're gifted or challenged," he stated. "We have an incredible staff and a supportive community. It's a place kids can grow and blossom, not only academically, but also socially and emotionally. We provide rich cultural experiences. It's a good place for kids to be."
The couple also likes to garden, and he also enjoys carpentry work. "I like to build things," he said. "Right now, I'm building two Adirondack chairs. I also enjoy listening to old rhythm and blues."
The thing that would most surprise people about Mow, who is always impeccably dressed and whose desk is always extremely organized, is that he actually enjoys getting dirty. "I like to do yard work" he said. "I have a wildflower garden and I enjoy getting right in there and working with the soil."
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