Senior Lanna Searle reflects on her father, a former teacher at MSHS.

Lanna Searle, Guest Writer

Mark Searle, a man with many roles in life. Many call him a teacher. Many see him as a counselor, a confidant, a mentor, a friend, and two people call him father. He has taught high school for twenty years, so it’s safe to say that he is an expert educator. You might be wondering how he manages to win the hearts of so many high school students? Well, the answer may not be what you expect. Ironically, his main approach is the threat. When he gets exhausted from repeating himself and seeing the kids make the same mistakes over and over again, he’s been known to tell them that if things continue, he will kick them in the shins. He says that kicking one in the shins is a good threat because it doesn’t sound so bad, but it really hurts, and it’s super easy to deny! It may only leave the slightest bruise, and if there were ever questions, it would be easy to say that the kid probably hit the corner of a chair or desk. He would never kick anyone in the shins because what kind of person would do that? That’s what makes it a perfect threat.

Searle has also threatened students that if they turn in essays that don’t follow the correct MLA format – which they have been going over for weeks – he won’t even grade the essays. Instead, he threatens to burn their essays, put the ashes in a zip-lock bag, and return the bag to them. Of course, he never followed through on that because he would get in trouble. Does this sound like a man who should be allowed to teach children?

There have been times when he did follow through on a threat. It was before he came to Manitou Springs and was still teaching in Gunnison. It was towards the end of class and Searle let the students have some time to do what they wanted. There was a group of student boys playing with a hacky sack. The hacky sack kept flying across the room and landing dangerously near Searle’s desk, so Searle warned the students if it hits his desk or lamp one more time, he was going to light it on fire. The students laughed like they knew Searle was serious, but they didn’t think it would happen again. Besides, this threat was ridiculous. Predictably, moments later, the hacky sack flies across the room and lands on Searle’s desk. The students immediately run to grab it from the desk as Searle rushes to grab his lighter and set the hacky sack on fire. What Searle didn’t think about before lighting the hacky sack, was that all of the sand that it was stuffed with started to pour out onto his desk. The smell of burning hacky sack was very difficult to explain to the next class coming in.

Again, you may be thinking that this person should never be around children, but that’s what makes him so perfect with teenagers. Searle’s students understand his twisted sense of humor. They know he’s harmless, and they know that these things are just his way of being unconventional, getting their attention, and building relationships. His classroom has always been a safe room for students. Students always sought Searle out for help and counseling, as well as just having someone to talk to. This leads to the whole reason Searle wanted to teach. Searle had a terrible high school experience growing up. He felt the teachers didn’t care, and he didn’t care about school. There was no laughter, creativity, or engagement in the classroom. He didn’t become a teacher because he was a straight-A student or excelled in academics. He became a teacher to build relationships with the students and to get them through high school. The best compliment he can receive is from that parent who comes to him and says, “thank you for getting my kid through school.” English happens to be the subject he teaches, but he believes that who he teaches is more important than what he teaches. Mark Searle has threatened students and lit objects on fire, but he has built relationships that students will never forget. In his 20 years of teaching, he has shockingly never been fired, but he has been rewarded with the great feeling of knowing he has gotten a lot of kids through high school.