Mark McDowall, 6th Grade Teacher, North Plains Elementary School, North Plains, Oregon
Nominated by Ashley Ravins (fellow educator)
I met Mark 14 years ago. In that time I have seen him put his students before his needs repeatedly. Even though he teaches 6th grade, he goes out of his way to begin making connections with all grade, even the kindergartners.
Mr. McDowall is one of those teachers that goes out of his way to get to know each of the students at our school. You can tell it is a priority of his to make those connections especially with the students that really need the extra support and attention. He even volunteers to supervise the students that walk home so that they feel safe as they begin their journey off campus.
Mark is always willing to help out a fellow staff member with whatever they need. That could include answering testing or computer question, or helping track down supplemental materials one of us is looking for. He is also always willing to share insight into math strategies that he has learned over the years. Whether you need someone to just listen or are looking for a new recipe, Mark is your guy!
Get to know Mark McDowall!
What inspired you to become an educator?
I come from a teaching family. Both my parents were educators so I guess it was in my blood. I was working in the private sector and doing some coaching of young kids and I thought "Why aren't I doing this full time?" Working with young people and seeing them grasp concepts, be it throwing the ball correctly or learning how to multiply fractions, is a thrilling experience. You truly can see the light bulb come on when one of your students sees how something works for the first time.
What do you like most about teaching?
I think what I like most about teaching is the energy kids bring to school every day. It's the eagerness to learn, to become a better person, to socialize that keeps me coming back day after day. It's touching the lives of not only the student but the whole family. I have had the good fortune to work at the same school for 23 years so I know lots of families and often feel like I am part of their family too.
What has changed the most since you began your career in education?
Education goes around and around. I remember my mother telling me that there isn't any new ideas in teaching only old ideas tweaked and reintroduced as new. Some things have changed for the better and some for the worst but it is the change itself that keeps us refreshed and renewed. Without the change we would become stale
What would you like parents to know about your job?
I think parent understand our job as teachers only to well. They struggle through the same problems and delight in the same solutions as we do. We have to form a partnership with one another to really make this all work. I think parents want the same thing as we do, to see their child grow into responsible, respectful, and educated young men and women.
Share a favorite story about your years in education.
I remember several years ago we had a student move in from another district about mid-year of the 5th grade. In those days I taught all the math to the 5th and 6th grade. We were working on learning division, and this girl was struggling. She just didn't understand the concept. Well the 5th grade grew into the 6th grade and she still didn't have division down. Sometime around the third quarter she came to me and asked if we could work on learning division again. well we went through the steps and all of a sudden she stopped, smiled, and the light bulb went on. She said "I see now, can we work another one?" After that she went back to her desk and took off dividing like a pro.