Mark Geiger: The High School Math Teacher with International Acclaim as a Soccer Referee

There are many examples of talented educators who have also logged impressive accomplishments in athletic arenas. Such is certainly the case with Mark Geiger, a former high school math teacher who now serves as a referee for Major League Soccer in both the United States and Canada.

imagesMark was born on August 25, 1974, in Beachwood, New Jersey. After graduating from Trenton State College, Mark taught advanced placement math at Lacey Townships High School in Lanoka Harbor, Ocean County, New Jersey. In 2009, this remarkable educator was one of 103 teachers who received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. The prestigious award is given annually to the best elementary and secondary science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators following a state-level selection process.

Mark earned his National Referee badge in 2003 while still teaching. He began his career as a part-time MLS referee a year later. In 2008, Geiger was added to U.S. Soccer’s International Panel of Referees, making him eligible for higher-profile international matches and requiring more travel. When he was offered a full-time, salaried position with the Professional Referee Organization, he reluctantly decided to retire from teaching. He wanted to referee international matches, and he was aware of FIFA’s preference for officials with full-time referee jobs.

Mark confesses that his experiences as a teacher has made a significant contribution to his success as a soccer referee. He once commented that math is about quantity, structure, space, and change, and that is also true of  the dynamics on the soccer field. He also remarked that maintaining order and clarity in a classroom of gifted, confident students is not that different from fairly governing the lightning-fast interplay of 22 of the world’s most gifted and talented soccer players. “When I was in the classroom, it was 25 or 30 students each with a different learning style,” he has said. “On the soccer field you have 22 different players, each with different personalities. So it’s about recognizing what’s going to work with a particular player and then implementing that.” He added, “The situations that are in the grey areas, preventing players from taking that next step, communicating with them, managing them, working with them” is what a good referee brings to the game. Sounds a lot like great teaching.

Mark is recognized as one of the best professional soccer referees in the business. He has worked the  Olympics games in 2012 and four matches during the U-20 World Cup finals in Colombia, which culminated in his officiating the championship game. The U-20 final marked the first time an American official refereed a major FIFA men’s tournament championship. Mark has also been to Morocco for FIFA’s Club World Cup, and he worked the fifth-place match between the Egyptian and the Mexican club. Later Mark served as the fourth official at the championship game. For his outstanding work as a referee, Mark was selected the Major League Soccer Referee of the Year in both 2011 and 2014.

Mark Geiger: a true chalkboard champion.