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.

Rich Franklin: The Multi-Talented Math Teacher

RichFranklinphotoIt’s no surprise that gifted and talented educators possess expertise in fields beyond the educational sphere. This is demonstrated very well by math teacher, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight Champion, mixed martial artist, businessman, and actor Richard Jay Franklin, Jr.

Rich was born on October 5, 1974, one of two sons of Richard Sr. and Valia Franklin. Although he was born in Kentucky, he was raised in Cincinati, Ohio. His parents divorced when he was only five years old, and through subsequent marriages he acquired five additional half-siblings. As a youngster, Rich attended William Henry Harrison High School. Following his graduation, he enrolled at the University of Cincinatti, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and his master’s degree in education. After college, Rich taught mathematics for four years at Oak Hills High School in Cincinatti.

lu25005-edit-199x300During his years as an educator, Rich launched a career as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), with a goal of fighting professionally. He left the teaching profession to pursue his goal full-time. He quickly moved up the ranks, and in 2005 earned the UFC Middleweight World Title. Following this victory, Rich accepted a position as a coach on the second season of the television show The Ultimate Fighter.

In 2003, Rich launched a clothing company with several business partners. This enterprise was named American Fighter. “The American Fighter message was about finding the fighter in each of us,” Rich once explained, “Whether you are a person battling cancer, an athlete preparing for competition, or a soldier stepping into combat, we all have a fighter in us.” In 2012, Affliction Clothing expressed an interest in American Fighter. They acquired the majority of the company to take the brand to mainstream retailers where it continues to grow. “The American Fighter name had an obvious connection with military personnel and I have always felt it is my civic duty to give back to the troops,” Rich says. “I have visited military bases all over the country, both domestic and abroad. The most recent trip was to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. In 2006, I began working with the military extensively, particularly with disabled veterans.” Specifically, Rich is an avid supporter of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) organization.

Rich made his acting debut in a film called Cyborg Soldier,  where he portrayed an escaped super soldier. In 2010 he starred in Hamill, a story inspired by the life of Matt Hamill, a deaf UFC fighter. He can also be seen playing MMA Coach Billings in the 2014 comedy Mantervention.

The multi-talented Rich Franklin: a true chalkboard champion.

Pro Wrestler and Physical Education Teacher Angelo Poffo

poffo_angelo1There are many talented educators who have earned accolades in fields other than education. This is the case with Angelo Poffo, a physical education teacher from Chicago, Illinois, who had already established a reputation as a professional wrestler.

Angelo was born April 10, 1925, in Downers Grove, Illinois, the son of Italian immigrants. When he first started school, Angelo spoke no English. “I remember, my first day, it got to be around noon, and I didn’t know what was going on, so I went home,” he once said. “That didn’t go over real well.” At school, young Angelo got tough in a hurry, learning to defend himself from kids who picked on him. But his immigrant parents were strict and overprotective. They insisted that he stay at home to study and do chores, and forbade him from working out in the high school gym or playing sports.

After his high school graduation, Angelo enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago. As a young man, he thought that baseball was going to be his ticket to success. He earned a spot on the university baseball team as a catcher. “My catching was good and everything, but my hitting was bad. So I had to give it up,” recalled Angelo. At DePaul, Angelo studied physical education and played competitive chess. Before being hit by a baseball and getting plate-shy, he played ball with George Mikan, who would later become the first big NBA star. DePaul is also where Angelo met his wife, Judy Sverdlin. The pair married on June 6, 1949, and had two sons, Randy and Lanny. Both of Angelo’s sons also became professional wrestlers.

During World War II, Angelo served his country in the US Navy. The first time he saw the weight room, he remembered, he felt like a kid again. “I thought I was in heaven,” he once said. As a 24-year-old pharmacist mate, his unit was stationed at the Naval Destroyer Base in San Diego. Angelo hit the gym for hours on end, sculpting his 6-foot, 200-pound physique. On July 4, 1945, the young sailor set a world record of 6,033 sit-ups in four hours, ten minutes. “Somebody did about 5,000 and his abdominal aorta broke and he died. So I did 6,000 and I was so happy that I was still alive, I did 33 more sit-ups, one for each year of Jesus Christ’s life,”Angelo once recalled. He became an instant celebrity on the base, and word soon spread beyond the Navy. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not showcased his achievement in their newspaper strip and presented him with a gold belt emblazoned with his record.

After his discharge from the Navy, Angelo launched a 35-year career as a professional wrestler. He was strong and determined, and it turned out he was a natural. First came billings at small events and carnivals. During the 1950’s, his fights were televised on the DuMont network, but much of his time was spent on dreary long-distance drives. On one trip, he drove former boxing champ Joe Louis, who had become a wrestling referee, to a match in Minnesota. They stopped at a restaurant, but Louis was refused service because he was black. Angelo brought dinner back to the car so Louis could eat. But as a pro wrestler, Angelo’s crowning achievement came December 27, 1958, when he dethroned Wilbur Snyder for the U.S. TV Title in Cincinnati.

When Angelo decided to retire from professional wrestling, he accepted a position as a physical education teacher and wrestling coach in Chicago.  “I was just getting older,” he admitted. “I saved all my money and I was happy with the money I got,” he recalled. “Then I started teaching school in Chicago, physical education.”

In 1995, Angelo Poffo was inducted into the World Championship Wrestling Hall of Fame. On March 4, 2010, this dedicated educator, talented athlete, and US veteran passed away at the age of 84.

Bill Thieben: High School History Teacher, Principal, and NBA Star

OBJIUUEQDENVLZF.20090408171622[1]Many chalkboard champions have distinguished themselves as talented athletes, and this is certainly the case with William Bernard Thieben, who is also a retired professional basketball player.

Bill Thieben was born in Suffolk County, New York, on March 28, 1935. He attended Sayville High School from 1948 to 1952, and played for his high school basketball team. After graduation, he enrolled at Hofstra University. In his sophomore, Bill played for his college team, and in his junior year, he was named an All-American by Look Magazine. In his senior year, he was again named an All-American by Look Magazine, and he also won the Haggerty Award, given to the New York City top male collegiate basektball player. Bill was the first student from Hofstra to earn this prestigious award. He graduated in 1956 with degrees in history and political science.

Bill was drafted into the National Basketball Association and played for the Fort Wayne Pistons during the 1956-1957 season, and the Detroit Pistons during the 1957-1958 season. At 6’6″ and 196 pounds, he played the position of forward. He participated in a total of 85 games during his professional basketball career.

After two season of professional basketball, Bill accepted a position as a history teacher at Bay Shore High School in Bay Shore, New York. His imposing stature, his hearty voice, and his unique ability to connect with students made him a truly remarkable educator. After three years in the classroom, Bill was promoted to assistant principal, a position he maintained for ten years. In 1971, Bill became the principal at Rocky Point High School, where he remained for twenty-three years. He retired in 1994. During these years, Bill also taught history and sociology at Suffolk Community College, Long Island University. He was also a professor of secondary education at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.

Bill Thieben’s positive influence on the students of Bay Shore was recognized in July of 2000. Almost three decades after leaving Bay Shore, students who attended the school in the 1960s honored this chalkboard champion by establishing a permanent memorial plaque at the high school in his name. Engraved on the plaque are the words “William B. Thieben – The voice that launched a thousand school days remains forever in our hearts.” A William B. Thieben Scholarship Fund was also created in his honor. In addition, an annual award is given to a senior graduate who needs a helping hand, because the students felt that Bill “was always there to lend a helping hand.”

In 1990, this talented athlete and remarkable educator was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2003, he was named a Colonial Athletic Association Basketball Legend, and in 2008, he had his jersey (#93) retired by the University.

Ad Carter: The High School Foreign Language Teacher who Climbed Mountains

539w[1]Often talented educators earn recognition for achievements outside the realm of teaching. Such is the case with Hubert Adams Carter, a high school foreign language teacher, mountain climber, and journalist from Massachusetts.

Hubert, who was most often called “Ad,” was born on June 6, 1914, in Newton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts, in 1932, and from Harvard University in 1936.

Ad was very young when he began his career as a mountain climber. He made his first notable ascent at the age of five when he climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Ten years later he  climbed the Matterhorn, and he also began making ascents near  Kandersteg in the Swiss Alps. In 1936, during his senior year at Harvard, Ad was a member of the British-American Himalayan expedition that climbed India’s Mount Nandevi for the first time. In 1937, this amazing athlete was named to the US Ski Team, competing in the Alpine World Skiing Championships. The following year he participated in the Pan American Championships.

In 1938, Ad married fellow teacher Ann Brooks, pictured with him above. The union produced three sons and a daughter and lasted 53 years.

During World War II, Ad assisted with the establishment and training of the 10th Mountain Division. A talented linguist, he translated material in German, Italian, French, and Spanish for use in writing the first army manuals on mountain warfare. He also interrogated Japanese and German prisoners of war. For these valuable services, Ad was given a Commendation for Meritorious Civilian Service in 1945.

After the war, Ad returned to school. He earned his master’s degree from Middlebury College in 1947, and then accepted a position as a teacher of foreign languages at his alma mater, Milton Academy. He taught German, French, and Spanish. He also founded the school’s Ski and Mountaineering Club, which today is known as the H. Adams Carter Outdoor Program. The dedicated teacher often used his vacation home in Jefferson, New Hampshire, as a base camp for school field trips to the White Mountains.

In addition to teaching, from 1954 to 1958, Ad contributed his expertise as an officer of the American Alpine Club, and from 1960 to 1995, he served as the editor for the American Alpine Journal, a position he held for 35 years. Under his leadership, the Journal became one of the most prominent  journals of record for mountaineering in the world.

Ad retired from the teaching profession in 1970 after 23 years as an educator. This chalkboard champion, journalist, and talented athlete passed away on April 2, 1995, at the age of 80, from an embolism.