- July 18, 2018
Mark Brown was interested in working in education because of two things: his love of history and his passion for sports. In his 32-year career with Orange County Public Schools, he was able to share both with students in several area schools, including West Orange High and Southwest Middle.
He was hired in June 1984 by West Orange High’s new principal, Joe Worsham. It was his first interview with OCPS, and he accepted.
Brown came to Central Florida from Missouri, where his first teaching experience was at a K-12 school with 800 students. Walking into a high school of more than 2,000 students was a shock, he said.
“The best part of my 30-plus years in education has been the relationships that I have been blessed to experience with fellow educators, students and athletes. In every school I have been assigned, it was always about creating a family atmosphere and providing support to others. I only hope that was accomplished for others as I know it was for me.” — Mark Brown
“One specific memory that sticks out about that first year was on the first day of school,” Brown said. “As I moved through my schedule, with each one at a different classroom, I finally got to my seventh-period class of World History and walked in and found 53 students waiting for me. I didn't know if it would stay that way, but wasn't too concerned. … The class ended up with about 36 students. … I still remember that my teaching load that year was six classes with around 230 students. That was normal at that time.”
A few later, he switched to American history.
“I thoroughly enjoyed history and wanted to get others to understand not only the interesting things that have happened in the past, but how those events connect and impact what is taking place today in their own lives,” Brown said. “Also had grown up involved in sports so I also wanted to coach.”
He was hired as head coach of the girls basketball team, as well, and even coached both girls basketball and varsity girls volleyball for a couple of years.
“The best part of my 30-plus years in education has been the relationships that I have been blessed to experience with fellow educators, students and athletes,” he said. “In every school I have been assigned, it was always about creating a family atmosphere and providing support to others. I only hope that was accomplished for others as I know it was for me.”
In 1991, Brown, who was still the girls volleyball coach, was convinced to take over as athletic director by Worsham and Al Saour, the outgoing AD. Because he couldn’t serve in the new role and continue as a coach, he talked soccer coach Mike Armbruster into become volleyball head coach and Brown served as assistant coach.
Two years later, he took the assistant principal’s position at Jones High.
“Although I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every position and every school that I have been blessed to be assigned to, my favorite times would have to be my first and last assignments — my years at WOHS as a teacher and coach and to return later as an assistant principal and then my last years in the district at Blankner K-8,” Brown said.
He said his most memorable moments were at West Orange. He will always remember world history teacher Linda Tesauro serving as a mentor to him and many of the other new teachers, giving advice and sharing ideas.
“Despite the size of the school, it was a very pleasant and supportive atmosphere with a strong family atmosphere and closeness,” Brown said. “This feeling was due in large part to Mr. Worsham and a very close social studies department. I made great friends with great teachers such as Linda Tesauro, Pete Abatiello, Sharon Mulligan, the two Cindys (Doerges and Alderman), Ogie Keneipp, Chris Stone, Greg Robinson, Steve Swank, etc.
“The entire department was like a family and one of the best department chairs, Sharon Mulligan, that I have worked with,” he said. “She was the constant as that family feel continued as many of us left and others came in.”
Brown was principal of Southwest Middle School from 2008-10, and he said he wishes he could have been there longer.
“I appreciated the support of our PTSA as we conducted cottage meetings when I first arrived there so that I could meet and listen to the parents,” he said. “I regretted not having a few more years there, as we were making strides as it related to campus beautification, adding additional courses to the schedule and bringing in new teachers to add to some very good and dedicated teachers already on campus.”
His final assignment was at Blankner School, a K-8 in Orlando.
One of the retirement gifts he received was a Shutterfly book his wife, Kelly Moss Brown, created using photos of him in action on the field and in the classroom. It also included several pages of letters written by former students and colleagues. There were messages that likened him to a father figure and said he made the school a family. One note let him know he changed one student’s perspective of school, allowing her to excel and flourish. Others acknowledged his leadership skills, his impact on students’ and teachers’ lives and his “heart of gold.”
Now that he’s retired, Brown’s calendar isn’t quite as full, and he hopes to continue working and having a positive impact on students and educators. He also wants to spend time with Kelly.
“I’m waiting for God to open the door that he wants me to enter,” he said. “In the meantime, we have two new grandchildren (who) are both less than a year old (who) need spoiling when the time is right.”
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected]