Now in his second career, Notre Dame Marist Academy middle division religion teacher Mark McGreevy says it’s the best move he’s made after a 25-year first career as an architect. The Notre Dame High School (Harper Woods) alum credits his first visit as a parent of a prospective student and a losing battle with God as factors in his mid-life career switch and ultimately, his NDMA job. McGreevy answers a few questions from the Blarney Stone:
Why did you become a teacher?
Oh, for the money of course! (laughing)
Was NDPMA your first teaching job?
No, teaching wasn’t even my first career! I spent 25 years as an architect, but my first teaching job was at St. Anne’s in Warren. My eighth-grade English teacher, Thom Engel, remembered me and hired me for seventh grade. I guess being a good kid paid off. That was in 2003. After that, it was to NDPMA where I’ve been ever since. Although I was originally hired to teach at the lower division, I moved to the middle division when an opening became available about a week before school began.
How did you handle your first teaching experience?
My first teaching experience went quite well actually. I was offered a contract renewal—that’s a good thing! I was in my mid 40s, though, and had plenty of experience working with kids through coaching prior to making this career change. In a sense, I had already been teaching kids in a part-time fashion for nearly ten years. So the jump to the classroom wasn’t overwhelming.
What was your first impression of NDPMA?
My first impression of NDPMA came when my oldest son, Eoghan ‘06 (NDP), needed to move from his current school to somewhere that he could get away from bullies. ND Marist was never on my radar. In fact, we had recently moved to Beverly Hills to be closer to U of D High because that was where I planned on sending my boys. My wife Carol, though, suggested we look at Marist since it was close to Chrysler where she works and it would be more convenient. I actually argued with her about it, but agreed “to look” at it. I wouldn’t consider it, but I’d look.
We came in unannounced and went to the Marist middle office and met Mrs. Favrow who talked to us about the school, etc. We discussed the bully issue and then something happened that changed everything. Mrs. Favrow took us to a classroom completely unannounced and told the kids, “This is Eoghan and he is thinking of coming to our school next year.” The kids literally got up from their seats and put their arms around Eoghan and showed him around the class. My wife and I never saw anything like it. Carol nearly began to cry. I was speechless. I never saw anything like it anywhere else. This has been a special place for me ever since.
What are the most significant changes to the school since you first started?
The most significant change has been the implementation of the IB program. This program takes a lot of work by a lot of people and, I think, we have made great strides in accomplishing the requirements. Parents don’t realize the behind-the-scenes work of the coordinators, the trips the teachers have gone on, the effort to do new unit plans, all while keeping the school humming along and achieving things like Top 50 Catholic High Schools awards repeatedly. These people are really amazing. It says a lot about the staff and faculty of all the divisions.
What do you think is the most important part of your job?
Responsibility, in a nut shell! I was never so intimidated as when I was asked to teach religion. Not because I didn’t think I could do it, but because I would suddenly become so responsible for such an important aspect of my students’ lives. I could make a mistake in history, but in religion – are you kidding!! My soul would pay for that for eternity! There is a path from my room to Fr. Strasz’s office, so when St. Peter says, “Hey, what did you do to all those kids?,” I can point to Fr. Strasz and say, “I asked him if it was okay!”
What role do you think the classes you teach play in fulfilling the school’s mission?
Currently, I am teaching eighth graders in “History of Religion.” I take this class very seriously, so much so that I am currently enrolled at Sacred Heart Major Seminary studying Theology in the master’s program. I was given the task by Mrs. Favrow to “make it interesting!” I hope I have succeeded in making it interesting, but my goal is to expose the students to the “why” we do what we do. I have always found “why” the most enlightening part of any education, so why not with religion. When students begin to get an understanding of why Catholics do what they do, then they have something they can cling on to. At that point the high school can begin to reinforce their curiosity. A main focus of Christianity was not to force someone to become Christian, but to show them why it is good and give them the freedom to choose it for themselves. That’s what I try to do in my class. I present the material and let them decide. I believe the religious aspect of their education is paramount; “With God, we form Christian People.”
What would you choose for a job if you weren’t a teacher?
Whatever He wants me to be next! I’m tired of fighting Him. I fought Him for 25 years as an architect. God led me here and I am very happy—so who am I to tell Him what I want. (But a travel agent has its perks!!)
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.