By Rebecca Barrack
You won’t find Mark Peters searching for any spotlight and you won’t find him out seeking his 15 minutes of fame. No, you’ll find the 2016 Brevard County Teacher of the Year right where he always is — serving his school and his students at Port Malabar Elementary. This teacher of 32 years is happiest just doing what he always does on a daily basis. You’ll find him out directing
traffic and helping students cross the street during morning drop-off. You’ll find him laughing and joking with his students, or just sitting down to listen to them when he notices a need.
His students love him and it’s easy to see why. “They’re really happy for me (for winning this award),” said the PE teacher. “They are very excited for me and many have written me letters. I just say, ‘Hey guys, it’s just me, Mr. P. Let’s not worry about me anymore. Let’s go play.’”
His principal, Cindy Whalin, echoes the students’ sentiments. “Mark is a wonderful educator and a great leader. He’s so inspirational and positive all the time — everyone feels that way about him. I know no matter what is asked of him, you can count on him swinging for the fences. He goes 100 percent in everything he does.
“Mark is energetic and always seeks new ideas,” Principal Whalin continued. “He’s not one to rely on old lesson plans. He plans, prepares, and researches everything. He can take a small idea and truly make it powerful.”
For Mark, the most important thing when it comes to teaching has always been what is best for the children. “Children always come first. They don’t all fit in the same box,” he explained. “Equal doesn’t mean everyone gets the same. Truthfully, we’re their parents seven hours a day. My job is to set them free of all their baggage for 40 minutes a day.
“Secondly, the relationship you establish with them and the parents is vital. It’s not a teacher thing, it’s a community thing. If you can bring the parent on board with what you’re trying to do, now you have something to work with. That takes time and effort.”
After more than three decades of teaching, Peters became the first in Brevard County history to receive Teacher of the Year honors while in DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program.) However, he hasn’t let his longevity slow him down.
“I didn’t want to get into DROP and just coast,” he said. “I want to swing for the fence until the last day. I want my last day to be the best/hardest thing I’ll ever do. Over time, your body doesn’t respond the same. I’m getting tired, but I still have four years left. I don’t ever want to not teach with this energy. In fact, I know I want to work when I’m done, doing something. I just don’t know what that is yet.”
When he isn’t teaching, you’ll find him riding his horse with his wife. The pair, married for 28 years, barrel race and ride a few days a week. He also loves spending time with his five grandkids who all live in Florida. His youngest granddaughter is a kindergartener at his school.