Unintended Consequences

Spanish degree brings teacher where he didn’t expect to go

Mark Hayes’ parents were both teachers, but he never intended to follow in their footsteps. A life-long resident of Wagoner, his dream was to be a highway patrolman. After just two years at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, he was hired as a dispatcher for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and he was on his way, just as planned.

He majored in Spanish at NSU, thinking that would help him as a patrolman. But that proved to be important for other reasons. Hayes eventually gave up the idea of a career in law enforcement and, with a degree in Spanish, wound up replacing his Spanish teacher at Wagoner High School.

Obviously, it has been a great fit for both Hayes and his students. In September, he was named one of Oklahoma’s Rising Stars, an honor from the State Department of Education given to six local teachers of the year who have about five years or less experience in the classroom.

Hayes met his wife after he started teaching. Christine is the choir teacher at WHS and he met her when foreign language was folded into the Fine Arts Department. “She ignored me for an entire year,” Hayes said, but he finally got her attention and they’ve been married almost four years.

He is also active in the local association, serving as the bargaining team spokesperson.

Education Focus: How did you become a teacher?

Mark Hayes: “After a few years (with the Highway Patrol), I realized the job was not for me. I actually prayed about it, and two days later I went to get my haircut and heard the Spanish teacher here was retiring. I went to see the principal just to see what would be involved in getting such a job. He told me about the alternative certification program. I was just in time to register for the test, and if I passed, I’d be just in time to take the job in January. I walked in literally from a radio room. I think my last shift was on Jan. 2. Jan. 4, I was in classroom. There were so many things that lined up … I really think it was a God thing.”

EF: Teaching has obviously proven to be a good choice for you.

MH: “When I became a teacher I wanted a paycheck and benefits similar to what I was making (at the OHP). It was the total wrong attitude (to become a teacher). But, it didn’t take me long to realize that (teaching) is who I am, this is something I really love.”

EF: What is your teaching philosophy?

MH: “Do what’s best for the education process. Do what’s best for the kiddos. Evaluate, analyze, do what’s best to get that point across.”

EF: What have you changed in yourself as a teacher or the process through your experience?

MH: “Coming from a paramilitary organization like the (highway patrol), I was just hard-nosed. That was the only way I knew to be. I found out real quick I was backing myself into corners. I was not getting my job accomplished as well as I should. Being who I am, just dropping that front and getting to know kids … treating them like I want to be treated. That is really one big thing I’ve changed.”

EF: What is your superpower as a teacher?

MH: “Where I stand out is, and I actually have freaked out some of my kids with this, is sometimes I know the question they’re going to ask before they ask it. Reading people, I think, is my superpower.”

EF: What the most rewarding part of your job?

MH: “Knowing that I have truly helped a student. Without a doubt. That, and the high pay (laughter). If I can make that positive impact, that’s, by far, the most rewarding.”

EF: What keeps you as an OEA member?

MH: “The insurance and the legal (protection) are the big hooks. Also, I went to the Advocacy Conference, and was very surprised and pleased to see how professional everyone was. What I got was different than my expectation.

“When I saw how hard (OEA was) fighting for SQ 744 – whether 744 was good or bad – they were trying something. And when I heard them say, ‘This is going to cost a lot of money and take a lot of work, but you know what, we’re willing to try.’ That impressed me and that will probably keep me on the membership rolls.”

Interview by Doug Folks and published in the December 2010 / January 2011 edition of the Education Focus.

Photo Caption: Rising Star Mark Hayes jokes with Wagoner High School Spanish students (from left) Dillon Rose, Hannah Clunn and Kate Wuzljakovich.


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