- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

LATIMER, Iowa (AP) - CAL science teacher Mark Robinson is like most first-year teachers, trying to learn the ropes and figure out his teaching style.

However, Robinson isn’t your typical first-year teacher. He took a different path to his first year of teaching this fall.

“I graduated from college 35 years after high school, which I thought was kind of funny,” said Robinson, 53.

Originally from Guilford, Connecticut, Robinson joined the Navy shortly after high school. While in the Navy he traveled all over the world and had jobs as a submarine hunter, helicopter crewman and quartermaster in charts and navigation, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1FIl7vz ).

After just over 20 years in the Navy, Robinson decided it was time to retire - but before doing so he took a test to help determine his interests. He decided on chemical engineering.

“I tried to get the old gears turning,” he said.

At one point he also went to chef school.

In 1998 Robinson, his wife, Mary, and their children moved to Muscatine. Robinson said they picked Muscatine because it was halfway between a Navy Reserve unit in the Quad Cities and the University of Iowa.

“Right after I returned I went to Muscatine Community College and took classes there,” Robinson said.

Eventually he enrolled at the University of Iowa in chemical engineering.

“Honestly it was a culture shock,” Robinson said.

The family also received bad news during his first year at the University of Iowa. His father-in-law was sick with Parkinson’s disease and his mother had stage-four liver cancer. Robinson withdrew from classes to attend to his family and began working factory jobs.

“For me it was easy, almost to the point where it was mind-numbingly easy,” he said about factory work.

Robinson eventually suffered a minor injury at work and was terminated.

“It was my wife who encouraged me to go into education because I taught in the Navy,” he said.

Robinson thought it was a good idea, too, and enrolled at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant.

“It was ideal for me - a small school,” he said.

This past May he graduated from the college with a degree in chemistry for education. He then applied for jobs at TeachIowa.gov.

“The day after I filed my application the (CAL) principal called me up for an interview,” Robinson said.

About three weeks before the start of the school year he was offered the job.

“From my perspective this is ideal being in such a small school,” Robinson said. “I teach four classes and each class is different.”

Robinson teaches high school physics and chemistry, eighth grade physical science and seventh grade life science.

“I was not expecting to have middle school students,” he said. “It’s a different kind of challenge, but the kids are great.”

“I absolutely love what I’m teaching,” he later added.

Robinson said he’s happy with his career choice and hopes to move his family to the school district next summer.

The couple’s oldest two children are on their own in Muscatine but their 18-year-old and 12-year-old still live at home in Muscatine with Mary. Their 15-year-old lives with Robinson in Coulter during the week, attending CAL.

“I could be happy here,” Robinson said, “and I hope that my family could be, too.”

CAL Principal Scott Striegel said the district is pleased with its hire.

“Mark has a wealth of 21st century skills coming to us with a variety of work and Naval experiences,” he said. “Our students are benefiting from his experiences in the work force.”

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Information from: Globe Gazette, http://www.globegazette.com/

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