Luke Marks ‘11 is a lifelong Saint Thomas Academy cadet. The English teacher, head lacrosse coach, assistant football coach, and son of Assistant Athletic Director Julie Marks started as a student here in 7th grade, joining his brother, Logan ’09, and returned to campus as Alumni Relations Director soon after earning a bachelors degree in communications and journalism from the University of St. Thomas in 2016.
As a student and as a football, basketball, and lacrosse player, Luke Marks “loved every single second of it,” he said. “I was super close to Dave Ziebarth. He was a huge influence. A big part of the reason I wanted to get into teaching was teachers like him and Mark Westlake and Tony Kinzley.”
Marks’ short time away from campus included one year on a football scholarship at South Dakota State University before transferring to the Tommies as an offensive lineman, starting alongside Logan for the team that reached the 2012 NCAA Division III Championship game. Soon after returning to the Academy, Marks earned his Masters of Educational Leadership from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, moved from alumni relations to his current faculty position, and is on track for a Summer 2021 Masters of Communication Arts and Literature degree from the University of St. Thomas.
As a 9th-grade and 10th-grade English teacher, Marks most enjoys “being able to engage students in discussion based on what we’re reading. My class is very discussion heavy. Boys learn better when they’re very enthusiastic about what they’re doing.”
For example, Marks generates enthusiasm for Fahrenheit 451 by discussing the book’s focus on censorship “and how censorship is prevalent today.” For his freshman class’ reading of The Most Dangerous Game, a short story about humans hunting humans on a Caribbean island, “we’re discussing the value of human life,” he said.
“I tell the boys that as long as they have evidence to support their arguments and as long as their argument is done in a respectful way, then we’re open to anything.” At 6-feet, 6-inches, 250 pounds and “quite loud,” Marks has a knack for ensuring respectful discussion.
“Originally, kids may be a little bit intimidated by me, but there’s an approachability from me because I like to have fun in class. I want there to be humor as long as we all understand the environment is about learning. Energy is so important to boys learning. If they’re not enthused about what they’re learning, it can be like going to the dentist.”
One key to Marks’ approach is understanding “which students are already smart enough to lead this class” and those others who need “extra attention between 3:00 and 3:45.” He learned to value those distinctions, he said, from Joshua Mulheron, who recognized Marks’ own needs as a math student.
Marks also credits his fellow English teacher, Lisa Deyak, for encouraging him to incorporate student-led discussion. Marks appoints a student as the leader, provides a discussion prompt, and prepares him to lead the class for 45 minutes. That also lets Marks assign other students to fill roles best suited to their capabilities and personalities, such as note-taking or serving on a panel that judges students’ arguments.
Another way Marks gets the most from his students is to simply keep himself available. “Dave Ziebarth always used to talk about loving and caring for each other, which in a boys’ school seems like an odd thing to say. But the kids really do care about each other. I always remembered Saint Thomas Academy as a place where everybody is just trying to be good at something, and everybody supports each other. As a high schooler, you don’t realize it until your gone. When you look back at it, you realize not everyone else’s high school was like this.”
Looking back at the Academy like that is what made Marks come back to the Academy.