Q&A with Mark
[Editor’s Note: I recently had the privilege of conducting an email interview followed by a face-to-face interview with Mr. Pifer. His words were so poignant that I feel it important to share them just as he did, rather than attempting to edit them. Enjoy! – Laura Fitzpatrick, Contributing Writer]
Fifty years of teaching is remarkable…basically unheard of. How have you accomplished this?
A day at a time! A grading period or a semester at a time. One course at a time. You just do it. It is the Lord who has given me the mental and physical strength to meet the challenge and do the work.
How would you define success as a teacher?
I put in my college syllabi that I measure my success as a teacher by how well my students do. If my students are not learning, then I’m not doing the job correctly.
What wisdom would you pass on to new teachers?
Relax. Enjoy the students. Build relationships. Make it interesting. Make it relevant. Have a sense of humor. Pick your battles carefully. Be nice to the custodian and the kitchen help.
What about teaching/education/WC has changed over the years? What has stayed the same?
The most obvious change is the use of technology in teaching. In the past, we did a lot of describing. With technology, we are able to do a lot of showing. When students see the effects of math, they can understand concepts better and learn more. Technology allows for instant feedback and controlled instruction.
Students have not changed much over the years. Every class, every year has those who are eager to learn and those who challenge the teacher. Christian school parents are more involved with their children’s education and are generally very supportive and trusting of the teacher.
What are your favorite experiences or notable memories in your tenure?
I am most amazed at how many of my former students have allowed me to teach their children. I am also amazed at how many of my former students have become math teachers or have chosen career fields that involve lots of math. I enjoy getting to know whole families as friends. In some cases, I have had parents and all of their children as students.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge in a lifetime of teaching?
Teaching closed minds. It is hard to convince someone they can do something after they’ve decided they can’t and never will. It’s is extremely difficult to motivate students who have already quit before they start.
What is most rewarding about teaching?
Hearing a student say, “Oh, now I get it!” or “Is that all there is to it?”, “Now I understand!”, “I didn’t used to like math; now I love it!”, or, when a student comes back to visit from college and says “Mr. Pifer, I’m getting A’s in math!”
I have worked with an amazing bunch of colleagues over the years. Christian school teachers are really “a family of believers.” We encourage each other, pray for each other, and lift each other up when we’re down. I have appreciated the opportunity given to me by the WCS administration to be creative and explore new avenues and techniques of teaching. My college teaching has allowed me to see what students need at the next level and then make those changes and adjustments to the high school teaching to make sure they are prepared.
He taught me to challenge myself and even made math enjoyable for me! Mark Pifer prepares his students wonderfully for college and is extremely genuine as well. He is a motivating teacher who realizes his students’ full potential even when they do not!
He is and has always been a man of God and gave some great sound advice about continuing in my teaching profession.
Mark Pifer forced me to think and ask questions which ultimately made me a stronger math student who knew how to work hard.
I had Mark as a teacher. The greatest compliment I could give him is that my college courses were far simpler than his classes at Worthington Christian.
The best tribute I can pay him is to quote my brother Michael. He said, “When I think of Mark Pifer, I think of Atticus Finch.” He is a steady example of someone who does what is right. I respect his steadfast faithfulness over all those years. He left a significant impression on my heart and I am thankful for the example he set.