In our second installment of our “Meet the Team” series, we are thrilled to introduce you to the one and only Mark Gifford. Mark joined the New Community faculty at the beginning of the 2015 school year and has been a favorite among students since his first lecture. He has a fantastic sense of humor and a lifelong love for teaching that brought him back out of retirement and into the classroom again. We interviewed Mark to give you a little glimpse into his passion and drive and what brought him to our hallowed halls.
Where did you get your degree and what did you study?
I went to Cal Poly Pomona and graduated from there in 1973 with a degree in Biology. After working in several different jobs, I went back to Cal Poly and got a teaching credential in 1987. I eventually went back and got a Masters in Education in 1997. I taught science in the Walnut Valley Unified School District for 28 yrs, and retired in June of 2015.
Tell us about becoming a teacher:
Shortly after I became a Christian, I started working in the Jr. High Dept. at church teaching Sunday school. I found I really enjoyed working with junior high students. At the time I was working for Verizon (it had a different name in those days). I had my B.S. degree already, so I decided to go back and get a teaching credential.
What drew you to New Community Academy?
In thinking about retirement, I knew I would not be able to sit around in my fuzzy slippers and watch Westerns all day. Teaching is my gift, and I still wanted to be able to use that. I had talked to [executive director] Kimberly several years before retiring about the possibility of teaching at New Community (at that time it was NewCova). I asked her if there could be a use for my skills, and if they would fit in her program. As we talked more, both of us felt this was the right decision, and I began teaching the September after I retired.
What are you most excited about this year?
Each year of teaching brings different challenges and different goals. Part of my enjoyment comes from taking on the challenge of adapting to the various needs of students. I think my biggest satisfaction, however, comes from seeing students, who didn’t feel successful previously, now feel a sense of accomplishment and confidence.
Tell us something we might not know about you:
I bought my first car when I was 15. Since I didn’t have a license yet, it was just parked at the side of the house until I turned 16 (and, no, I did not sneak out and drive it when my parents weren’t around—even though, as a non-Christian teenager I made plenty of other irresponsibly, bad decisions).
What do you like to do for fun outside the classroom?
Most of my outside interest involves mountain biking, along with most outside activities. I also read quite a bit and enjoy spending time with family (especially my 5 grandchildren).