2010.02.03: Solomon Islands RPCV Mark Barry has the prestigious Milken Family Foundation award for educators was bestowed upon him

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Solomon Islands: Peace Corps Solomon Islands : Peace Corps Solomon Islands: Newest Stories: 2010.02.03: Solomon Islands RPCV Mark Barry has the prestigious Milken Family Foundation award for educators was bestowed upon him

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Solomon Islands RPCV Mark Barry has the prestigious Milken Family Foundation award for educators was bestowed upon him

Solomon Islands RPCV Mark Barry has the prestigious Milken Family Foundation award for educators was bestowed upon him

To say Barry's resume is varied and interesting would be an understatement. Barry's route to a teaching career is a circuitous one. He didn't realize at a young age that he wanted to teach and credits his wife, Tami Wolff, also a teacher, for encouraging him to look into education while the two were students at Colorado State University. He held several jobs after college, but all the while, Tami always knew that she wanted to teach. Barry's first job was working with at-risk youth who were incarcerated. He would teach them and they would enter a treatment center, only to land back in jail, which he found disheartening. Barry realized he did in fact want to teach, but in a different setting. He traveled to Nepal, teaching Tibetan monks English, which gave him a "different perspective." Through the Peace Corps, he and his wife traveled to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, where Barry headed up a school science department, providing another unique experience, until the two were evacuated via jet by the U.S. government when civil war broke out. Then there was a stint at a rural school in northern Wisconsin and a principalship that including teaching at the high school level at a K-12 school in an Alaskan village. The two also taught in Maine then traveled to Africa before landing in Fort Collins to settle into permanent positions and start a family.

Solomon Islands RPCV Mark Barry has the prestigious Milken Family Foundation award for educators was bestowed upon him

Town native surprised with teaching's ‘Oscar'

Mark Barry and his wife, Tami Wolff, a fellow educator, traveled the world teaching before settling in Colorado to raise their family.

By Kristen Schoenebeck / Correspondent
GateHouse News Service
Posted Feb 03, 2010 @ 03:54 PM
Marblehead -

With new Hollywood award shows seeming to crop up annually, it's refreshing to see a beloved, deserving educator take to the red carpet to strut his tuxedoed self. This May, one former Marbleheader will join other teachers from across the country to claim what is called the "Oscar of Education" in a ceremony in Los Angeles.

"Surreal" is how Mark Barry describes the moment when the prestigious Milken Family Foundation award for educators was bestowed upon him. Barry clearly wasn't expecting the award. In a YouTube video of the announcement, one can see his bewilderment, as he looks around as if to see if another "Mark Barry" will stand to accept the award.

In reality, of course, Barry was the favorite teacher on the receiving end of the students' cheers. Barry took the microphone to accept the award and said he wasn't quite sure why he was selected over the "other, brilliant teachers in this building, but I am honored and humbled to receive it, so thank you."

At first Barry thought the school was winning an award. When the students and faculty were assembled Principal Dr. Jane Foley, "did a great job of hyping the students up," Barry noted.

She asked the students what a deserving teacher could do with $2 - for example, get a cup of coffee. She continued to hold numbered placards up, revealing one digit at a time. By the time she got to $2,500, all eyes were on her. Then she added an additional zero.

"By this time, the energy and excitement were really palpable," Barry said. "Everyone was just hanging on her words by this point, so when she said my name it was just surreal. I had to look at one of the students next to me to make sure [I had heard correctly], and he just had this huge smile on his face. As soon as I stood up, all the teachers and kids in the bleachers did, too, with a standing ovation, and I was just floating to the front of the gym. It was very surreal. The Commissioner of Education for the Fort Collins School District and the chairman of the Colorado Board of Education were shaking my hand. It was just unbelievable."

Barry will join 53 other educators to have received the award at a spring ceremony.



Marblehead roots

Barry, a 1990 graduate of Marblehead High School, is into his 12th year of teaching, but becoming a parent nearly three years ago added a new dimension to his approach, he explained.

"You realize that everyone is someone's kid, and it makes you want to go that extra mile even more," he said.

Barry's father, also named Mark, still lives in Marblehead, as do his grandparents, Buddy and Vivian Clark. Barry is also grandson of the late Jack and June Barry of Marblehead and the nephew of Brunonia Barry, who gained her own measure of fame as the author of the bestseller "The Lace Reader," and Gary Ward of Salem.

Barry's Marblehead roots caught up with him, thousands of miles away and many years later, while teaching his own classes.

"I will say that, having grown up in Marblehead, in an 11th-generation Marblehead family, I've come to appreciate the Maritime history, the Colonial history, the rich history of our town," he said. "When I was young, my attitude was ‘whatever,' but as a social-studies teacher, I really started to appreciate what that taught me. It's part of what I love about our hometown. It's the foundation."

He added, "My grandfather was in the Navy, and every time we come home he does the architectural tour with us, and talks about his days in the Navy. We look forward to it."



A well-traveled background

To say Barry's resume is varied and interesting would be an understatement. Barry's route to a teaching career is a circuitous one. He didn't realize at a young age that he wanted to teach and credits his wife, Tami Wolff, also a teacher, for encouraging him to look into education while the two were students at Colorado State University. He held several jobs after college, but all the while, Tami always knew that she wanted to teach.

Barry's first job was working with at-risk youth who were incarcerated. He would teach them and they would enter a treatment center, only to land back in jail, which he found disheartening. Barry realized he did in fact want to teach, but in a different setting.

He traveled to Nepal, teaching Tibetan monks English, which gave him a "different perspective." Through the Peace Corps, he and his wife traveled to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, where Barry headed up a school science department, providing another unique experience, until the two were evacuated via jet by the U.S. government when civil war broke out.

Then there was a stint at a rural school in northern Wisconsin and a principalship that including teaching at the high school level at a K-12 school in an Alaskan village. The two also taught in Maine then traveled to Africa before landing in Fort Collins to settle into permanent positions and start a family.



Teaching today

Barry's advice to those considering a teaching profession: "Jump in with both feet. You have to study theory, but much of it is trial by fire. It's one of the busiest jobs there is, so whatever sources you have to keep your energy going, use them. You're going to get exhausted, and you're going to get tapped out, wondering if you're doing it well, but it's very rewarding."

Barry added, "We lose a lot of really good people to the private sector because of the money, and it's a controversial thing now, but if you look at the amount of time we work, we're really pretty well paid."

Mark Barry on… ‘helicopter parents'

The Reporter asked Barry what he thinks of today's phenomenon of "helicopter parenting," i.e. being in constant contact via cell phone, Facebook, or other technological devices. This recent trend has come under fire from educators and social workers alike, who fear that the over-parenting does not allow kids to make their own way, write their own papers or learn consequences from their own actions.

Barry, a parent himself, said he understands the struggle between wanting to protect your children and wanting to overdo it. It's important for the parents to realize the difference between guiding and taking over.

He said, "I think a lot of times nowadays parents are saving their child, saving them to a fault. Students need to learn to fail; they need to be allowed to fail. What's different now, as opposed to a few years ago, is that parents are coming in as their child's advocate, but it's often in an adversarial role, against the school and teachers. Kids need to be responsible for themselves, and for their own actions."

This is where many well-intended parents interrupt what could be an invaluable lesson, by rescuing kids from their own actions, he noted.

Barry emphasized that parents need to be involved, to process things through with their kids, and to, most importantly, be teachers themselves.

"These days we have students coming to school for everything - for parenting, counseling, et cetera. We as parents have to trust the professionals to do their job, and let the parents do the enrichment piece, and expand upon the lessons taught in school."



The profession, he said, attracts people who see beyond the paycheck to want to effect change, to have an impact on people.

"The connections you make with people show an exponential success," he said. "I'm having students return to me now, 10 or 12 years out of school, to say they're going on to teach, and that is incredibly rewarding."

He added that education finally seems to be getting its share of recognition.

"People are beginning to realize how important it is," he said.



On the red-carpet experience

When asked how he will celebrate, Barry said he looks forward to the all-expenses paid trip to California this May, where he and Tami will walk the red carpet at the "Oscars of Education." But the trip will involve more than just the event, for which Barry will have to be fitted for a tux, and picking up his $25,000 check. In addition, he will attend at educational conferences, at which he will no doubt benefit from the experiences and methods of his fellow honorees.

According to the biography listed with the Milken Family Foundation literature, Barry has the reputation of asking a lot of his students academically. He is known for having one of the most difficult yet most sought-after classes at the school. His Advanced Placement students generally score high on their exams, and reading test scores at Fossil Ridge High School have climbed significantly during his time with the school. His classes are taught much like college courses, with a focus on honing critical-thinking skills.

In addition to teaching at Fossil Ridge, Barry chairs the social-studies department. He serves as university liaison for Colorado State University's master's teaching program, as an adjunct professor of classroom management and lesson planning. He is also pursuing graduate studies at the university, supervises the school's mock trial team, coaches forensics and chaperones school events.

Barry and Wolff, who teaches seventh-grade in Fort Collins, are parents of twins. Their son, Clarke, and daughter, Fawn, are just shy of turning 3.

"I don't know exactly what happened, but they're another thing that keeps me going," Barry said.

He added that part of his winnings would go toward college funds for his children, which seems quite fitting.





Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2010; Peace Corps Solomon Islands; Directory of Solomon Islands RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Solomon Islands RPCVs; Education; Awards





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