Mark Waywood says that what he enjoyed most about teaching was the student-teacher interaction, and he should know, since he spent most of his life in the classroom.
Born in East Chicago and raised in Hammond, Mark spent 39 years in the front of classrooms, starting his teaching career at Tolleston and Horace Mann High Schools in Gary, Indiana.
He earned his BA degree in science and history from Indiana University, then continued to earn his Master’s in education through Purdue University of Calumet, with an additional 30 hours on top of that degree.
“I came out of college, and like a lot of young fellas, I was thinking about going into law, but that did not work out,” said Waywood. “But I needed to start making a few dollars. I was living with my parents at the time and my mother suggested that I try substitute teaching. I quickly found out that I really enjoyed it. I liked teaching social studies, enjoyed the interaction with the kids. From there, that experience sort of steered me towards a career in education.”
Waywood enjoyed his time at the Gary schools, but was laid off in the early 1980s. He then applied to several area schools, eventually accepting a position at Hebron High School, where he stayed for 28 years.
“Hebron was actually the first school to call me, and since I was living there at the time, I thought it would be a good fit,” he said, adding that he enjoyed being challenged by his students.
“When you’re talking with the students, when you’re interacting with them and they seem to be enjoying what you are talking about, when they’re asking questions, it’s a challenge for you,” said Waywood.
“The worst thing you can do as a teacher is to try to pass off an answer that is either not correct or is just a way to get through the moment. It was those ‘you got me’ moments that I liked. Those times when I didn’t have the answer and all I could say was, ‘I’ll research that and get back to you.’ It was that interaction, that sense of intellectual give and take that I really enjoyed. Learning is a two-way street,” he said.
Waywood said that perhaps his favorite subjects to teach were his classes on the American Civil War and World War II.
“Hebron was a small school and we were encouraged to develop new classes. These were year-long classes and I just had a ball teaching them. We only had maybe 80 kids in each graduating class - so you got to know the kids fairly well. You might have the same students for three of four classes a day.”
Waywood retired in 2014 and currently enjoys collecting World War II memorabilia: medals, collar tabs, and other items.
“Especially patches. I have an entire collection of American patches from World War II which I would use in the classroom when we were teaching about specialized military units like the Army Rangers or Merrill’s Marauders. Most people don’t realize that those special forces units began during WWII,” he said.
Waywood has even given lectures on those patches and the history behind them at the Porter County Library in Valparaiso. He says that his interest in collecting memorabilia gives him something to do and provides an easy excuse to indulge in another of his passions: research.
“One of the things I love most is doing research. I would even bring in a bayonet to show the kids, to help them connect with history. It was a good hook to get them interested in the topic.”
Waywood currently lives in Hebron with Theresa, his wife of 31 years. They have three sons: Kurt, Erik, and Jared. Kurt, 30, is a second-grade school teacher in Lebanon, Indiana. Erik works as an historical interpreter on an 1860’s Civil War-era farm, doing tours for kids, feeding the animals, and even playing Santa Claus during the holidays. Their youngest son, Jared, lives in England with his wife. The Waywoods also have three granddaughters - Adria, Lucy, and the newest addition to the family, Mollie, born just this past Thanksgiving Day.
“We’ll be flying over to England soon to meet our new granddaughter,” Mark said with pride.
Waywood says that he enjoys the comfortable variety of living right here in Northwest Indiana.
“As Judy Garland said in The Wizard of Oz, ‘there’s no place like home.’ We have a great mix of people, different cultures, different religious backgrounds. The seasons are great, and it’s a small community. If you have a problem, you can usually dial up a neighbor or someone from church and they’re more than happy to help you out.”
It is often said that we should thank a teacher for the lessons which help us later on in our lives. With caring, thoughtful educators like Mark Waywood as part of our community, the future of Northwest Indiana looks very bright, indeed.