When Mark Barth began a career that ultimately covered 34 years of service in the Mineola School District, he was motivated by a desire to interact with people, especially young people.
“I enjoyed working with people and particularly kids. I always had an affinity for teaching kids. I gained satisfaction from it. It was rewarding,” Barth said, sitting in his principal’s office at the Mineola Middle School on the eve of his retirement last month.
Barth spent the last 10 years of his tenure in the Mineola district as principal of the middle school, after having begin his career in a classroom in that same building .
Barth started working as a substitute teacher in what was then the Mineola Junior High School in 1977 and spent four years as a social studies teacher there. He became a teacher of the academically gifted, also teaching computers to students in grades one through eight in 1983.
Outside of the classroom, Barth was student government advisor, school newspaper advisor and coach of the girls basketball, softball and volleyball teams.
He was appointed director of the academically-gifted program in 1984, serving in that role through 1991, and simultaneously working as summer principal for the English as a Second Language program.
Barth had earned bachelors and masters degrees in education in education and social studies at the State University of New York in New Paltz. After he began teaching, he subsequently earned a masters degree in administration at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
“I always felt I had leadership skills. I wanted to advance certain initiatives and still work with kids and administration was the way to do that,” he said.
He said he particularly enjoyed working on curriculum development to give students the opportunity for academic success. The constant factor in his work, he said, was the satisfaction he derived from working with children and families.
Barth was an administrative assistant in the Jackson Avenue and Mineola Middle Schools in 1988 and 1989. He became assistant principal in the middle school from 1990 to 1999. He served as principal of the Hampton Street School from 2000 to 2003. And in 2003, he was named to the position where he completed his career as principal of the middle school.
He witnessed a quantum leap in teaching tools in the time he has spent as a teacher in administrator.
“Technology has dramatically changed instruction in terms of teach presentation and the kind of opportunities the students have,” he said, adding that technology has also made it possible to more accurately gauge students’ classroom progress.
But he said the nature of the children themselves and their concerns in the school environment haven’t changed that much at all.
“The issues kids deal with today are still the same. The pre-adolescents and adolescents still deal with the same issues of friendship and social interactions,” Barth said.
The past year brought both significant technical and social changes to the middle school, as fifth graders were moved there from Jackson Avenue under the unfolding reconfiguration plans of the school district. Those fifth graders were equipped with iPads and sixth graders received Notebooks in the latest technological shift.
“This was an intensive year with the configuration and all that had to go forward,” Barth said.
He hopes he’s made an impact over more than three decades of service in the school district.
“I like to think I made a difference in the lives of families and teachers. The work of educating children was a noble effort. I think I made a difference in the live of more than 20,000 kids,” he said.
The summer issue of the middle school Mustang News was filled with testimonials from students and teachers. Fifth graders thanked him for the Broadway trip and students praised him for his kind demeanor and the guidance he showed in helping them with their problems.
“Mr. Barth is the best principal I ever knew, and he is so kind and considerate and I think that is the most wonderful characteristic someone could ever have,” Tara O. wrote.
Barth also received accolades from his colleagues at a retirement celebration on June 18 at The Metropolitan in Glen Cove.
“He’ll be sorely missed,” said Mineola Superintendent of Schools Michael Nagler. “Many parents of current students had him as their teacher when they attended Mineola schools. He’s been a fixture and has touched many lives in this community.”
Barth has no particular retirement plans aside from spending time with his two children and two grandchildren. A resident of Long Beach, he also has a house on the North Fork of eastern Long Island and expects to spend some time sailing.
“I like the outdoors. I like hiking,” he said, adding that he has “no plans to anything exotic.”