Editor’s note: Journalism instructor Mark Webber is retiring at the end of May 2019, at the end of the school year. This story was published in May 2018.
As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Journalism/online media and literary magazine teacher Mark Webber has greatly impacted students’ lives for 25 years.
He has been a part of the Vidal M. Trevino School of Communications and Fine Arts staff since the magnet school first opened in 1993. He expressed that it is his “honor” to be given the opportunity to be a part of this community for so long.
It has been longer than 2 decades, but Webber’s passion for his job has remained the same. His excitement to assist in the success of his students have driven him to give it his all every day he comes to work. Without his eager mentality and patience, a high percentage of students would not be as prosperous as they are today.
“It is exciting. Every day is different. I just get up and enjoy coming to teach. Students should succeed. I look at it as if somebody does not do well, it is my fault. I am always working really hard to try and create situations for students to succeed,” Webber said.
Although he is well educated with a master’s degree in English Literature, Webber continues to learn and take in new experiences with a noble attitude. Working at a magnet school has exposed him to other talents that are out of the ordinary. Throughout his time at VMT, he has grown to become a teacher who not only influences students but assimilates from them as well.
“I am proud of being here with VMT. It has been a great experience, and I have learned so much. For example, I never really paid much attention to music, dance, or art. But, I have learned so much from being around students and teachers who perform music, dance, and create art. Even students in my classes, their photography and writings, are some things I have learned a lot from,” Webber said.
Throughout his time here at VMT, many memories that will last a lifetime have been created. Some of Webber’s conspicuous memories include being able to be a part of his journalism students’ success in contests, photo shows, and published work. The growth and development of the newspaper and online media have made him delighted to be their instructor as well.
“All the awards the newspaper has on the wall has been a big highlight. Just seeing how students are doing as well as anybody in the country, it is gratifying. Individual success in the clip contests when they get an award whether it is first, second, third, or honorable mention, it is always gratifying to see that. I think our photo shows we have every year is a highlight for many. I am amazed by the photos and the art that comes out from everybody,” Webber said.
Along with remembering memories that are engraved in him, emotions and thoughts of how far the newspaper has come kick in. As the newspaper celebrated its 25th anniversary in the 2017-2018 school year, the recollection of the early times come to mind.
For the past 25 years, VMT’S school newspaper, The Magnet Tribune, has expanded with the guidance given to the students by Webber.
“I cannot believe it has been that long. It is interesting to see where we were just ten years ago to where we are now. If you go back and compare our early issues to now, there has been a lot of growth,” he said.
“Now we have the print newspaper and it looks like any professional paper and that is a big boost, just to see the program emerge and evolve as media has,” Webber added.
Many people do not know what their future entails as they are starting their career, including Webber. He once worked at a daily newspaper company and taught at a local middle school but did not expect to be where he is now; teaching journalism/online media and literary magazine at VMT. As life led him onto this new path, he took it on with full force and has been very successful in doing so.
“I kind of figured it out and just went. We just started and evolved. I would have never thought that I would be here. Even in the early years of VMT, I just figured sooner or later they would get tired of me and transfer me to another school. Fortunately, the district has allowed me to stay and let the program develop and evolve,” he said.
As time has passed, Webber has observed that VMT students are not just regular high school students. He sees these students as being more sensible about their future endeavors and school. The mindset of these students is what makes them stand out from others.
Since the opening of this magnet school, the students have been focused and ambitious to complete their goals.
“It is the drive within the person,” that helps them stay on track, Webber said. For instance, he gave as an example a former VMT student who used his education to his advantage. He is now the vice president of operations for Telemundo in Arizona.
Students come and go as the years fly by but the way they go on about themselves and their future has not differed.
“VMT students are motivated and more goal oriented. They continue that search for success and the goal setting. They set a goal and work towards it. I think a lot of the students at the regular high schools just go through the motions of going to class and graduating. Here, they stay on this path to reach their goal and it leads them to be successful,” Webber said.
One shift in his career has been transitioning from the old campus to the new one. This milestone event for the school was a “bittersweet” one for him. Despite all the qualities the old campus had, he feels more protected at the school’s new location. The first campus was located in downtown Laredo. In August 2015, the new campus opened in central Laredo.
“It was kind of a shock. I liked the old campus because the buildings were scattered, and students had the chance to walk around. It was nice to go outside between blocks. Though I was keeping an eye on them walking during passing time, it was nice to see the greenery. Now I go into the hall and it is just cement and more cement or looking out the window,” he said.
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“I miss the wide-open ways we had, but I think we are in a much better place for safety here than at the old campus. It did not take much adapting to everything being in a smaller physical area,” he added.
After the 25 years that Webber has contributed to the VMT community, his career will likely come to an end sometime in the next 5 years. He is starting his 40th year teaching and he has gained new opportunities, made memories, earned awards, guided hundreds of students in the journalism field, and been a role model to many.
In closing, he said, “I need to start looking at what lies beyond. In 5 years I would reasonably be retired and spending time with my family.”