Still serving: IRHS teacher moves from military to the classroom
After Mark Sewell served for 22 years in the U.S. Marines Corps, he was ready to take his career in a different direction. Fortunately for the students of Indian River High School, Sewell chose to become a teacher, and he was recently named IRHS Teacher of the Year.
A Delaware native who traveled the world in the armed forces, Sewell has much experience to draw from as a history teacher.
“Everywhere I went, I absorbed a little bit of their history. It just piques my interest,” said Sewell, a self-described as a “voracious reader” who enjoyed history in school. “It helps out a little bit when I explain current stuff. Everywhere I go I look into the U.S. history side of it.”
After teaching classes such as tactics and other general subjects in the military, Sewell decided to pursue education in his post-military life. He worked in the National Security Agency, and then began teaching the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) at Indian River in 2001.
“I kind of liked the environment, liked the community, and the whole atmosphere here just appealed to me,” Sewell said. “It kind of felt like home.”
When a teaching position opened in the history department in 2006, Sewell said principal Mark Steele “really put his confidence” in Sewell.
In the classroom, Sewell said his 11th- and 12th-graders like the structure and discipline, as he remains consistent and levelheaded in class.
“A lot of these kids are very mature, very intellectual,” he said, so Sewell treats them like adults, believing they respect and respond to that. “I don’t know if people give kids enough credit for being as intelligent as they are.
“I think the kids realize I love my job,” said Sewell. “I like the people I work with. It’s a pleasure every day to come to work.”
Sewell said his biggest challenge is to bring students up to the level where they should be, especially with his Advanced Placement and honors classes and the new Delaware state testing standards.
“We have been very successful in social studies for public high school. We’ve been in the top for a very long time,” Sewell said, praising former history teachers for their efforts regarding state testing. Sewell said he worked hard to continue the IRHS students’ strength and legacy in social studies.
When not in the classroom, Sewell has coached – this year, volleyball, and baseball and softball in the past. He said he also enjoys being outside and spending time with his wife and daughter.
“It’s a dream job to come in and do something you really want to do. You have such a significant impact,” Sewell said. “There’s a lot of people in this school who deserve [the award] as much as I did. I was very surprised. It’s nice to be recognized.”