Mark C. Jones teaches history and geography in grades 9-12 at the Morristown-Beard School, a private secondary school in Morristown, New Jersey. He teaches world history and a pair of regional geography semester electives, Geography of the Developed World and Geography of the Developing World. Occasionally, a student approaches him to sponsor an independent study in A.P. Human Geography. He has been an NCGE member for 22 years, and has served on the executive planning board, on the publications and products committee and on the finance committee. He is currently a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Geography.
Mark first discovered geography as an undergraduate at Bucknell University. One of the required courses for his major in international relations was political geography, taught by legendary Professor Richard Peterec. Mark took that course and became an instant convert to geography. “Everything that I knew about history, politics and military affairs made so much more sense examined from a spatial perspective.”
After a few years teaching history at a boarding school, Mark earned a MA and then a Ph.D. in geography from Miami University and the University of Iowa respectively. His graduate work emphasized political geography and geography education. While at Miami, a professor learned that he had an interest in teaching geography and immediately recommended that he join NCGE.
“The professional benefits of being a NCGE member are clear. Reading the Journal of Geography and The Geography Teacher is a way to broaden and deepen your understanding of geographic pedagogy and curriculum. I attend NCGE’s annual conference each year, which is a valuable combination of paper sessions, field trips, plenary speakers and many conversations with old and new acquaintances. The people who attend the annual conferences are very talented and motivated individuals from all over the country. At the Denver conference, then-president Paul Gray made the observation in one of his speeches that NCGE’s conferences are like a family reunion. I agree with Paul, and look forward to reconnecting with people who I might see only once a year.”
One of Mark’s personal and professional interests is rather unusual for a high school teacher, writing articles for scholarly and semi-scholarly publications in both geography and history. “Right out of college I used to think that publishing was incompatible with being a committed teacher. While at an Association of American Geographers (AAG) meeting, I had a chance encounter with a prominent professor who encouraged me to think of publishing as teaching people who were not my own students. That was good advice, and I have tried to put my thoughts in print when I can make a contribution to the literature.”
Mark’s advice to recent college graduates with an interest in teaching geography is to immediately join both NCGE and a state geographic alliance. To increase one’s marketability, he suggests that new teachers develop the ability to teach another social studies discipline in addition to geography. Additionally, he advises that “after a few years of teaching, younger teachers should begin a master’s degree program to gain a deeper understanding of their subject areas and how to teach them.”