Every day, Mark mentors students who must overcome serious challenges. But he knows they can persevere, because he did.
Growing up with Tourette’s syndrome, Mark had poor grades and demonstrated significant behaviors, but thanks to positive relationships with his educators, he was able to defy expectations and succeed in school.
As an adult, he sustained a brain injury and developed a significant stutter that made life exasperating. Despite these challenges, he went on to earn two master’s degrees and make an impact as a special education teacher.
He is a walking success story. Despite challenging disabilities, he built a prosperous career in education. Now, he wants to see others triumph over their individual obstacles. By sharing his journey through motivational speaking and his poetry, he educates others about diversity, advocates for individuals with disabilities, and motivates people to overcome serious challenges. Lives in Pueblo, Co.
Trench story: can share childhood & as teacher. He’d like to read 1-2 poems. Wasn’t diagnosed with Tourette’s before age 18 so didn’t get supports. Positive relationships with teachers. First tic at age 7 in ‘83. Lived in Long Island, parents split up. W/ mom several wks. She suffered from schizophrenia. Had a schizophrenic. binge. Mom would drive her all around NY state, even
up to Montreal. She took them to ER, ran out the door w/in 20 m of being seen. He had tic when he had a spiral notebook, strummed it along his lips until they bled. It was his way of processing. Teacher trench- he shares poem. After episode w/ mom his dad regained custody. He did the best he could but was abusive physically & verbally. Mark had spent $30 on comic books. Dad kicked tar out of him. He had bruises on neck & cheeks. Brother’s friend made a DHS call, but Mark froze & lied. Shortly after he moved to CO. Reads his poem:
Mark reads Bystander poem: As a kid he was on 1 side of DHS call, this poem was from his first year teaching. Tough being on the other side of DHS call. Has had to make several since.
What led you to become a special education teacher? He struggled as student in public school. He was a teacher’s worst nightmare. Got into fist fights. Very talkative. Part Tourette’s, part home environment. Moved to Co Springs age 15. His tics sometimes involved barking. The tics blew up when he moved to CO. Early on in Co Springs he got into a fight. AD grabbed him by the side of his face. He almost got expelled. Dad got the expulsion hearing dropped. Him & other guy did $1000 worth of vandalism. His AD didn’t try to expel him for this. He assigned him to detention for all his free time rest of year. Mrs. Suzy Tracy there- Mark formed a great connection w/. Inspired him to turn his life around. Next year he went to detention to spend time with Mrs. Tracy. Ffw to college, his 6th year, after his brain injury, he was able to get his B.A. What next? He decided he wanted to help kids who had similar struggles as him. He was after to earn M.A. in sped. Rather than being ruled by disability, he rules his disability.
What is the most rewarding part of being a special education teacher & how do your disabilities help/challenge your ability to be a special education teacher? his end-all goal is to teach them how to be ppl who embrace diversity. We recognize everyone’s differences. Story about a student. Moses “Most-us”. He asked his student about b/day and student said “every year”. “Different kinds of smarts”. One of his best friends has Down’s syndrome. His friend is great knowing all NFL teams to city. Different kinds of smarts.
How has poetry helped you deal with your disabilities? Mark offers poetry workshops after school. Offered to any student. Some of his sped students have participated- culminates in poetry reading. Was diagnosed w/ Traumatic Brain Injury and a Toxic Brain Injury.
Mark reads The Fifth Wall poem
What is the overall message to your motivational speeches? It’s the power of positive relationships. His kids work hard for him b/c of the relationships. He can talk about difficult relationships and how they have led him to be the person he is. Many great educators take the time but with challenges of covid, low resources, a lot of educators haven’t had the time to build the rapport
How does your work as a special education teacher intertwine with your work as a writer, when did you start writing, publishing books? Talk book is Fingerprints”. Working on a 2nd book called Crosshairs. He is single, students are his babies so more time. Started writing as an undergrad. Wrote rhyme-scheme poems. His creative writing professor told him to write free verse poetry. Writing became his outlet. He kept working on it. When he got a job as sped teacher, he started writing more about teaching experiences. Made teaching & poetry into one. Sent out manuscript to several publishers, kept trying. His current manuscript is Crosshairs. Many have been picked up in literary journals & anthologies. He continues to grow as a writer. It’s like breathing for him. He thinks on a different level when he writes. Fingerprints spans 11 years of writing. 2nd section “Things that you want to tell your parents”. About his parents. About relationships-beauty of flawed relationships. Last section-about Tourette’s. Experience w/ doctor. Crosshairs include experiences teaching during covid. Some social justice pieces, 1 about George Floyd incident.
Professional speaking upcoming? He believes his messages are appropriate for anyone who wants to talk about power of relationship building. Did a keynote in AK for AK state sped edu assn. Spoken at Courage to Risk at Broadmoor. Is open to any event. Has poignant and witty anecdotes. Wants to help next generation of teachers, school executives.
Out of everything…2 things: 1) mantra to book- recovery is its own fingerprint. We have all sustained injuries, everyone is unique. Healing is unique. 2) he shares in classroom: never let your differences keep you from what you believe.
Find Mark online? www.teacherwithtourettes.com
The link is to my website which is used to advertise my motivational speaking ventures, my book, and my blog about my experiences with disabilities. Uses LinkedIn, FB. https://www.turningpointbooks.com/chartier.html
View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/VvqhU8aEwXw