The Big Picture

Granbury, TX — East Texas produced quite a few of Granbury’s movers and shakers, including Mark Weeks, theater arts teacher at Granbury High School.

A nature-loving former Boy Scout, Mark grew up fishing and waterskiing in the alligator-ridden Neches River. He roamed Big Thicket Natural Preserve near Beaumont, digging caves in the sides of Boggy Creek behind his home. “My childhood was as close to Huckleberry Finn’s as you can get without being on the Mississippi River,” Mark said. He liked to make people laugh, and he talked a lot. He also made plans for himself. “I grew up the most naive person. I was interested in being an on-air personality, just because my mom made me enunciate nicely.” After graduating high school in 1980, Mark studied mass critical of their spelling, pronunciation and random use of “ain’t.” communications.

914granOften he will stop and tell the children, “OK, I’m gonna put on time as Superintendent James Largent and Texas Senator Brian my daddy hat, and the daddy hat is going to say, ‘Just passing is Birdwell,” he said. “We did not know each other, but we were not OK.’ there at the same time!”

Now they’re all here. And the impact “I let my students know how I believe,” Mark explained. Mark is making on young minds every day is incredible. “I tell them their memory is with them forever, from simple Before moving into his new position codirecting theatrical multiplication facts to whatever they saw on an M-rated video productions and one act plays at GHS, math and science topped game to the words they hear in a song. I encourage them to his curriculum at Oak Woods Elementary.

He rounded out guard their minds as best they can.” every teaching moment with improvisation on any number of Known for unorthodox lesson plans, he sometimes topics. That habit will never end. His students expect him to be interjects stories inspired by his Boy Scout days. “I’ll tell my classroom stories about hiking at night through the Big Thicket by the light of the moon that cast shadows on the sandy path, and how we ended up in a graveyard,” he said, throwing his arms wide while yelling, “Boom!” The kids jump, and he loves getting their reaction. For Mark, vital teaching skills include discerning when students are not paying attention and figuring out what will pique the kids’ interest. Mark’s wheels are always turning. Years ago, he developed two characters for entertaining children. While volunteering in his own child’s kindergarten class at Mambrino School, Mark found himself telling stories he had made up. “I sat down and told a story about a space alien, Ree-Dee-Dee-Bop-Bop, and his misfit antics. The kids were dead quiet for 30 minutes straight, and the teachers would beam and tell me to come back anytime,” Mark said.

Even more satisfying is that 10 years later, some of those same kids have told him they remember those stories. These days, Mark’s “cousin” Mortimer, the mad scientist, is known and loved by people who attended Oak Woods School during the last six years. Some Friday mornings, when Mark had to step away from the classroom, his cousin would visit. “He’s quite a character. The kids like to see him, because he’s got crazy hair and thick glasses,” Mark said. He made appearances on stage during the morning assemblies. After the principal, Mr. Cody, gave announcements, the mad scientist always had something really brilliant to say. “We are so fortunate in Granbury to have many educators and school administrators who are passionate about kids. They recognize it really does take a village to raise a child. It’s a calling.”

Mark looks forward to every day at school and is inspired by his original motto: If we don’t make it fun, it’s a headache. During his nearly 10-minute drive to work, his 4,000-mph neural pathways zoom ahead. “I’ll get a cool way to teach a concept, another way for that kid’s mind to absorb it, figure it out.” He does the same everywhere he goes, whether building sets and running sound for Granbury High School’s choir and drama productions, teaching Sunday school for fifth-grade boys or giving puppet shows for preschool Awana students. On the Wednesday nights when he counsels with third- and fourth-graders during Awana, Mark devises intriguing and fun stories. “My goal is for them to walk away with some truth,” he said, “and to realize they learned something and want to come back for more.” Vacation Bible School students at Lakeside Baptist Church also benefit from Mark’s storytelling abilities.

He scripts extravagant productions for their main assemblies. Sometimes he veers off-script, keeping all the other VBS teachers and technical crew on their toes. His wife, Dawn, preschool minister and children’s choir director at Lakeside, frequently encourages Mark to stay on task for the VBS program. Even three weeks before this year’s VBS, Mark was unsure what he’d write to meet everyone’s expectations. He set the bar high last year, when he created an over-the-top, Cinderella-themed production. But this June, Dawn told him, “Everybody’s waiting on you, Mark. It’s up in your head. You gotta get it out!” He did. And the Lakeside team successfully produced a week of fun and ministry for over 600 children, who were thrilled when his cousin Mortimer paid a visit. “Very much the quintessential guy, I cannot multitask,” Mark said.

He finds ways to teach using the extraordinary thoughts floating through his mind. “Like in Sunday school, I’m always encouraging the kids while we’re reading Scripture to think about how the guys were probably interacting. I tell them, ‘They put their robe on one arm at a time and were regular guys, probably yukking it up here and there.’ I like to bring it off the page for them.” Mark can tell when it works, because the children maintain eye contact and laugh. Twenty-one years ago, when his eldest child, Hayden, was born, Mark started telling bedtime stories and singing homegrown lullabies. “That’s when I knew kids were just magical,” Mark said.

He and Dawn have five children between them, and to this day, Hayden, Marley, Corbin, Coltin and McKenna know it’s inevitable that Mark will embarrass them with his “insightful” humor. On a recent trip to New York City with Marley in celebration of her high school graduation, they enjoyed a live performance while underground. “The guy on the subway was interesting, partly because he did what I do,” Mark said. “He performed, but also talked about how he was doing everything! It was live, with a lot of interaction.” Mark engages students much the same way: teaching, talking and bringing into focus whatever’s on his mind. Purposefully becoming a storyteller in the classroom and a character on stage, Mark knows his audience well and uses what intrigues them to pique their interest in the big picture.

Written by Melissa Rawlins.