“I’m done. I quit!” These were the statements I was making in my fourth year of teaching in another school district. I felt like I was not making a difference in students' lives. I felt defeated. I was miserable, and I was ready to give up on a career that I spent years preparing for. I then received some great advice from a friend who suggested that I try another district before giving up on my dream of teaching. So, I set up an interview with Dr. Rebbeca Hillenburg, the principal at Friendswood Junior High. I knew nothing about Friendswood other than it was not where I was currently teaching. The interview went great, and she hired me right on the spot! I have to admit I fell in love with her mantra, “Do what is best for kids.” It spoke to me, and I started teaching this way. Teaching was fun again, and I found myself excited to go to school. That was 24 years ago. I am thankful to the students, teachers, families, and friends of Friendswood for saving my career. I love this town so much that I bought a house here, met a woman who graduated from FHS (class of 89), married her, and decided to raise our kids the Friendswood way. I feel as if I am a true Friendswoodian now. Yes, I bleed blue… Mustang blue that is.
I’ve had some ups and downs in my teaching career, but I would have to say one of my favorite things that I am most proud of is the number of students I taught that are now my peers. The last time I checked, there were 16 of my former students that are teaching here in Friendswood. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of all the successful students that have gone on to a number of other careers, but the ones that chose to teach and to continue to give back to the community they grew up in is special. Several of these students live in the same neighborhood as I do. I have to say, I love it when they still call me Coach as an adult. This sign of respect means a lot to this old guy. I feel good about the future of our community knowing these young people are leading our future.
I believe I will be most remembered for being the King of Rock Paper Scissors at FJH. This May will be our 14th annual event. What started as a simple and fun game among homeroom teachers has now grown into a major right of passage for our 8th-grade students. This tournament has been featured on Channel 13 news, had numerous articles written about it, and even been turned into a mockumentary. Someday, maybe we will make the big screens of Hollywood! The whole thing started as 2 students got into an argument over a game they were playing in homeroom class. At one point, the argument got a little heated, and I was about to intervene when a suggestion was made to just RPS it, and that would settle it. Sure enough - it did! I was happy and shocked that something like this could settle an issue. After explaining this situation to other teachers, we decided to have some fun and start a tournament. It grew and grew after that. The event now includes a marching band, trophy, plaque, halftime entertainment, confetti, a scholarship to FHS (with no monetary value), and of course the bragging rights of being the best at RPS in your class. The 8th-grade math department hosts the preliminary rounds in class, but the true excitement is found on one of the last days of school when the entire 8th grade makes their way to the cafeteria to witness the utter craziness of the Tournament of Champions of RPS at FJH. I feel it is a great way to celebrate the end of the 3 years they spend here at our school. The winner’s name and picture go on a plaque that will hang in these hallowed halls of FJH for eternity.
I feel as if my next step is retirement, and I can hopefully help raise some grandchildren here in Friendswood. I came to Friendswood with uncertainty and loss in my life and career, but I found a place to call home.
-Mark McKeever, FJH Coach and Math Teacher