South Bend Community Schools names 2023 Teacher of the Year

Adams High School Social Worker Mark Geissler selected as Teacher of the Year
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 7:39 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Top of the class, as the South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) names their 2023 Teacher of the Year.

This year, the SBCSC did something a little different when selecting the Teacher of the Year, honoring an educator that isn’t exactly a teacher.

The State of Indiana considers any certified educator working directly with students to qualify for the honor, making Adams High School social worker Mark Geissler eligible for the 2023 Teacher of the Year award.

While social work and teaching are two separate professions, both occupations work one-on-one with students to ensure their success inside and outside of the classroom.

Geissler, a South Bend Native and nine-year veteran of the SBCSC, says that empowering students and working with dedicated colleagues makes the job more than worth it.

“I get a lot out of empowering people and helping people make changes in their lives for the better, says Mark Geissler, South Bend Community School Corporation’s 2023 Teacher of the Year. “Those are all things I enjoy doing, and I think school social work is a great role to play in that.”

Geissler says one of the best parts of the job is making a difference in the lives of young people.

“One of the best parts about this job is seeing the development of kids over a four-year period,” Geissler said. “Students who do not know what they’re doing, where they are, where they want to go, into these mature adults who are finding themselves, finding their voice and their abilities, and getting through huge challenges, and I think we see that in the public schools really clearly because we have kids from so many different backgrounds.”

He says he learns from the students just as they learn from him.

“And high school students are sharp,” Geissler said. “They know when you’re not being genuine or sincere, and so I learn as much from the students I work with as anywhere else, and I think that another great part about doing this job is how big it makes my world in working with these students.”

Upon contemplating the key to student success, Geissler believes he has the answer.

“I think the key here that I see in high school is getting kids involved in something outside of just academics, although that’s super important, but creating a sense of belonging,” Geissler said. “And I think kids feel that when they participate in what schools have to offer, and I think Adams does a fantastic job at that.”

He also says that the job calls for authenticity, as high school students are more than capable of picking up on social cues.

“And I think that’s true of a lot of students,” Geissler said. “Once they feel part of a community here, once they feel like they belong and that they matter, I think they have a much better chance of succeeding academically and just becoming better people. It’s gratifying to see kids learn from even the difficult things they get through.”

With all the challenges over the past three years regarding COVID-19 and remote learning, Geissler wants to thank the SBCSC for selecting a mental health professional as their 2023 Teacher of the Year.

“Post-COVID, I think we as a society began to understand mental health a little bit better and see it as a priority, and I’m proud to be a part of a corporation that sees that to be true,” Geissler said.

Geissler also wants to thank his colleagues and the Adams administration for being devoted to shaping young minds.

“They haven’t chased me away yet,” Geissler said. “I enjoy what I do and am very fortunate to have a job like this. I appreciate working with colleagues who are committed to public education and committed to working with kids of all different backgrounds; all kinds of diversity.”

And while he might be this year’s winner, Geissler says education is a team effort, and he is fortunate to work with a great team.

“It’s teachers, its counselors, its nurses, its paraprofessionals; all those working together and collaborating to get these kids to realize what they’re capable of,” Geissler said. “I see a lot of that, and I think there’s a lot of power in that if we can replicate it and continue that.”

Geissler will also receive a $2,500 Professional Growth Grant from the South Bend Education Foundation as part of the honor. While unsure about the specifics, Geissler says the grant will enhance his work for students at Adams.

Some of his tentative plans could include a Civil Rights tour of the South or how social work is done in other countries.

A common saying among social workers is, “We’re not in it for the income; we’re in it for the outcome.”

Geissler received his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and his Masters in Social Work from the University of Maryland.

He is licensed in the state of Indiana as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and licensed as a School Social Worker with the Indiana Department of Education.