SAN ANTONIO — Anyone who knows Señorita Marie Marks will tell you.
“You can just see that smile. You can see her happiness when seeing her students and her passion,” said Nayeli Arispe, a student in Mark’s class.
When she’s in Spanish class, Marks admits she transforms, she’s more alive, happy, and full of emotion.
“When you look at the poetry, when you look at music, when you look at anything that people can say in Spanish it’s so much more expressive and I feel emotions more speaking Spanish that I do English and my first language is English.”
Her love for the Spanish language and culture goes back to her childhood, right along the Texas-Mexico border, to the small city of Brownsville where she was raised and drew her inspiration for the language.
“My father just passed away and he has been an inspiration to me. He spoke 6 languages.”
A Texan through and through, this longhorn went on to graduate from UT Austin but found herself longing to explore much more.
She landed in Spain where she studied and eventually graduated with a Master’s Degree from there.
Soon she returned to Texas and began passing on her worldly knowledge to the younger ones.
21 years and counting and now SAISD’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy is her home.
“I have one student here in class today. If you can see my smartboard, you can see on zoom, I have other students in class,” explained Marks as she pointed to the Zoom screen behind her juggling both virtual and in-person teaching.”
Her all-girls classroom joined us during the interview.
It was the perfect audience for this celebration to honor their teacher with our KENS 5 Credit Human EXCEL award.
Chris Armstrong with our partner Credit Human then surprised her with a $1,000 check.
“Under normal circumstances, we would be there in person handing you a check for a 1,000 but in this case, we will put it into the mail,” Armstrong said.
Superintendent Pedro Martinez joined in, “It’s teachers like you that influence me and all of our staff to work that much harder so thank you for all you do.”
Mark’s smile lit up the computer screen and it’s not just for the show. Her colleagues and students will be the first to tell you, Marks is all smiles, all the time.
“She’s a happy go lucky woman”, Delia McLerran with the Academy said, “She’s always smiling in class. Just ask her students, If I was a student in her class I’d love being in there.”
Nayeli Arispe is one of her students. She says Ms. Marks is the reason she has continued to take Spanish classes year after year.
“She’s really a light in the classroom”.
Marks, she added, makes a difficult time much more bearable.
“It can be very hard not seeing your teachers in the classroom but seeing Ms. Marks it feels like I’m actually there with her,” Arispe said, “I can just feel her happiness and it makes me very happy especially through this virtual learning and pandemic but Ms. Marks helps us forget about that and focus on the beauty of Spanish.”
The beauty and power in learning more than one language just happens to be one of Ms. Mark’s most important lessons.
“I want my students to have an open mind and not be afraid of people and things from different cultures who’re different from us but instead respectfully ask about it."
Marks is also a leader on campus and across the San Antonio Independent School District. She’s on a committee that helps decide what’s included in textbooks focusing on languages and what will be taught in the curriculum district-wide.
Under her watch, for the Spanish Honor Society, students design and build an altar at school for Día de Los Muertos and she’s not afraid to venture outside her Spanish class comfort zone.
Marks says she’s a nature lover and wants to teach her girls all about keeping our environment beautiful and clean.
“I talked to principal she let me organize a beautification day, we do it at least once a semester and we come and fix up the campus,” Marks said, “We have people power washing the sidewalks, people cleaning leaves and trash branches and all kinds of things. And at the same time, I wanted the girls to learn about gardening and more ecology. We started with flowers and vegetables and planting different things."
Her greatest joy is watching her kids become successful. Even more so now during this challenging year.
“This year has been tough. I feel like a brand new teacher on my 21st year teaching."
Marks laughed and added even she learns something new every day.
“I want the students to not be afraid and I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself and make mistakes and laugh at myself and I want them to feel the same way. That it’s a safe place.”