After stints of working as a draftsman, mapmaker, deckhand, psychiatric aid, and physiological research assistant, Mark’s passion for biology led him to earn a Master’s degree in evolutionary biology and ecology from Cornell University in 1986. Earlier in life, Mark, a native of Buffalo, earned his undergraduate degree from Washington and Jefferson College, majoring in psychology and sociology, and he later took courses in science and math at Columbia University while working in Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center’s Human Infant Physiology Laboratory. He is the author and co-author of scientific research papers examining topics that range from the sleep physiology of human preterm infants to the energy metabolism of salamanders.
Mark began his career as a science teacher in 1986, and he has been teaching science at MA since 1988. For a number of years Mark served as the school’s inaugural H.D. Thoreau Faculty Chair for promoting education for sustainability, a position he holds again today. He has been helping to lead MA’s Wilderness Quest (formally Vision Quest) program for the past 28 years, and in former years, Mark co-founded and co-chaired the Conference on Democracy and served as the MA Freshman Dean, JV Boys’ Soccer Coach, and Interim Head of the Science Department. In 2016, he earned a credential as a mindfulness instructor, and since then he has been sharing mindfulness skills with students as part of the Human Development and Mind, Body, Brain curricula, the MA Outings Program, and the school’s Mindfulness Club.
Collaborating with colleagues outside of MA through the University of California Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley, Mark was a Teacher Advisor and Project Advisor for the Understanding Science website, winner of the 2010 Science Prize for Online Resources in Education from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also served as Teacher Advisor for the award winning Understanding Evolution website. Mark has served as the High School Director for the California Science Teachers Association and he is a member emeritus of the California Teachers Advisory Council (CalTAC), working with educators, industry leaders and policy makers to strengthen science and math education in California. He is the recipient of the Access Excellence fellowship, and he has received the Gustav Ohaus Award from the National Science Teachers Association for innovative teaching strategies in high school science. He is an editor of The Nature of Life: Readings in Biology, a widely used text published by the Great Books Foundation.
Mark is a volunteer teacher for the Insight Garden Program at San Quentin State Prison, and he volunteers as a steward for the San Rafael Meditation Group, led by one of his mentors, Rick Hanson. Mark serves on the Board of the Joyful Mind Project, a non-profit that helps young people of all backgrounds cultivate wellbeing, mental health and academic success. In past years, Mark served on the Board of the Carr Educational Foundation, the nonprofit that helped to oversee Daraja Academy, a free boarding school for materially impoverished girls in Kenya. Along with his sweetheart wife and several MA colleagues, Mark twice led summer service learning trips to Daraja’s campus in Kenya for MA students.
Mark owes the bulk of his ability to follow his bliss to his sweetheart wife, Johanna Stefanski, a retired middle school science teacher who now owns and runs a local vegan baking business. Together, Mark and Johanna live in San Rafael with their garden, two cats, and box turtle Wallace.