Interview with mr. cortez

Belle Akeredolu '24

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Mark Cortez, a ninth and tenth grade math teacher who teaches algebra one and algebra two, was the focus of this interview.


B: So where are you originally from?


Mr Cortez:Well, that's a pretty straightforward question. So I grew up in South Louisiana. I grew up in Baton Rouge, which is the capital, Louisiana. And after I went to LSU, for my undergraduate there in Baton Rouge, and then I was married right after college, and my wife and I moved to New Orleans for graduate school. And since then, New Orleans has become sort of my home. Her family and my family have moved to New Orleans. And so when I think about home, I really don't think about Baton Rouge. I think about New Orleans. That's really my home now.


B: So what made you decide to come to SSSAS?


Mr Cortez: Well, I mean, I've known about Saints for a long time. And because, you know, my wife has been the head of independent schools, in San Francisco, in Dallas, in Chicago, in New Orleans. So I've lived in lots of different places, and just being in the Independent School world. I knew St. Stephen's St. Agnes, because it's a great school, and has a great reputation. And I've known about it for 15 years, probably. So, as soon as I started looking for a position, one of the first places that I looked was St. Stephen's. And that's because it's an independent school, which I know and love. I know that kind of lifestyle and that kind of teaching. And I knew the school was a great school. So it was a natural fit. When I saw there was a math position, I absolutely wanted to apply.


B: So did you always want to be a teacher when you were younger? Or was it kind of a last minute decision?


Mr Cortez: Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I don't, I don't think I really decided that I wanted to be a teacher until I was about midway through my undergraduate, probably a junior, at LSU. I loved school. Not to say I was always a great student. But I loved being around school, I loved the rhythm of school, I loved the stuff that happened at schools, and I knew that I wanted to just continue to be in schools. And so I started, you know, working toward my teaching degree, and my undergraduate degree, and I've never looked back. At the end of this year, I will have taught for 30 years, this will be my 30th, and I love it. I wouldn't do anything else. I mean, it's, I will do it until they say I can't do it.


B: And then I saw you came from NCS correct?


Mr Cortez: Well, I did. So my wife is the head of a school here in Washington, DC. She's the head of the lab school in Washington. And that's what brought us to DC. And our first year in DC was last year. And I didn't have a full time position last year. So I worked at NCS as a classroom facilitator for faculty who weren't back on campus. And I also taught a pre calc class while I was there. But before that, and I've been in many different schools, SSSAS is my 10th school. So the last full time position was at the Isidore Newman school in New Orleans. And not all of my 30 years, but most of my 30 years, 27 of my 30 years have been in independent schools. And I love it.


B: Do you have any goals that you want to accomplish in the school or with your students when teaching?


Mr Cortez: Yeah, I mean, you know, I set goals for myself every year and they're different depending on the year. And this being my first year at SSSAS, I mean, it's really just to get to know everybody to get to know the faculty. It's great. I mean, I miss having my own room, but I kind of am glad I don't have my own classroom because I also love the faculty office space, because you really get to know faculty members a lot faster because you're closer to them and you, you pass each other a lot more. I want to get to know the kids. I'm teaching a small part of the ninth grade and a small part of the 10th and 11th grade, so it's a small part. So you know, I like going out to football games and volleyball games and, and going to musicals and stuff because that's when I sort of meet kids that I don't teach. And I come into contact with them. So it's really just getting to know people and getting to know the traditions and the rhythms of St. Stephen's St. Agnes, that's, that's my real goals this year. And also to get kids to love math. I love math. I love doing math. It's fun and gets me up every day. So you know that those are sort of my goals when I'm starting this year.


B: What do you like to do in your free time, like outside of school?


Mr Cortez: Well, my wife and I live in Penn quarter in DC. So we're right by the Portrait Gallery and the National Archives that sort of our neighborhood and we are both runners. I love to run. And so every day, I run on the Mall in the mornings. We do a lot of hikes, a lot of urban hikes. So we may go for 10 to 15 miles on the weekend, you know, we'll walk from our house out into Arlington or into Alexandria, or down to the wharf and that's Park and up to the cathedral just to get around the city song. So we do a lot of that. I'm a reader, you know, so I enjoy reading and, and we love sports. We're big sports fans, particularly saints, football, New Orleans Saints, as well as St. Stephen's St. Agnes football. But we're saints fans, and we are LSU fans too. And we're not fans, you know. So anytime we can get out to the ballpark, we do that too. And we like to go, you know, we'd like to participate in the arts. We're members of the Kennedy Center, and we go to plays and concerts there. And we, you know, we love going to musicals, and the museum's down on the mall are just fantastic. So we're there every week. And we're probably in a museum every weekend.


B:Yeah. And then I see that you were quite well traveled going to 45 out of the 50 states.


Mr Cortez: Yep. So that's right.


B: Do you see it as a hobby of yours to travel?


Mr Cortez:It's a goal, while traveling is certainly a hobby, and we love to do it. So we're on the road a lot during the summer. And that's probably the main reason that we don't have a dog. We love dogs. But it's hard to travel with a dog and we don't leave it by itself. We do have a cat. And our cat travels well. And, but we do a lot of traveling during the summer. We're looking forward to international travel again, next summer, hopefully. But our goal is to hit every state. And I have about five left. I've got to get to Delaware. I haven't done it yet, which is next to us. But I'll get that done maybe later this year. And then I need Wyoming and Montana and Alaska and Hawaii. My daughter has a few other missing ones because she travels with me. We started this as a daddy-daughter sort of summer car trip thing and that's how we started working on it. And she's gotten some that I haven't. She has Alaska and I don't have Alaska, but I have a number that she doesn’t too.


B:You taught quite a few sports and math Olympiads. So which one did you like teaching the most?


Mr Cortez: Well, you know, I've coached a lot. I haven't coached recently, because when my daughter who is now a teacher at the Groton School in Massachusetts, when she, I guess when she got to eighth grade, she started participating in sports a lot cross country, soccer, track and field. And so instead of coaching, I was sort of hauling her around to different places. So I really haven't coached in 10 to 12 years, but my favorites in coaching are really cross country and track and field. That's where I know the most. But you know, I've coached basketball and soccer and those are things I've played in school, so I'm familiar with them. I'm not, I wouldn't say that those are my wheelhouse. But, I love running, cross country, and track and field.


B:What got you into running because I can see you have a real passion for it. 


Mr Cortez:You know, I came to it late. I didn't do it in high school or college. You know, I played basketball, football, and baseball growing up. And I didn't start running until I was in my 30s and it was really just for fitness, just to try and stay healthy. But I realized once I started it, how much I really loved it and enjoyed it and now it's sort of you know, it makes me feel better. After I run I never feel as good as I do right after I finish a run. I mean it's just I don't know if it's the endorphins or what it is but I just feel like you know, I've put myself out there and I love that feeling every time. And I think that's what's kept me doing it every day. So I've been running since I was in my 30s. I don't know, 20 years now, almost. And, you know, I run about 15 to 20 miles a week. And I love trail running. And I did that a lot when I lived in San Francisco. I don't do it as much here running on the mall isn't, you know, it's more urban running. But Rock Creek Park is a great place for running trails, too. So I have been out there a little bit.


B: What's one Fun fact you would like the student body to know about yourself?


Mr Cortez: My cat is named Alvin Kamara. After the running back for the saints. I don't know if that's a goofy little fact. My wife insisted that he be named because he's black and gold, like the New Orleans Saints that he have a saints name.