In The Forest Scout’s “Celebration of a Career” column, the staff writers honor a faculty member who is retiring in 2017.
Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, Mr. Osing has wandered through the halls and classrooms of LFHS–teaching for a 30 year tenure that has seen six presidencies, the teardown of the Berlin Wall, the unfortunate demise of the World Trade Center buildings, and some 3,000 Lake Forest High School students. As his years passed at the school, there is no doubt that at some point he taught every single core English class offered within the department curriculum and continuously curated his worldly knowledge both inside and outside of the confines of his classroom. But why is it that every one of his students takes away something more from the classroom than just the comprehension of a book or the proper grammar in structuring a sentence? It’s because his ability to learn from students while simultaneously teaching them new concepts never stops, and his passion for information–both immediately useful and otherwise–exceeds many other teachers.
Despite the change in enrollment, faculty members, and the layout of the actual building, life for Mr. Osing in 1985 wasn’t too far different than 2017 at LFHS. He still taught a variety of classes over his first few years like Junior Honors English, Freshman English, Composition, Film and perhaps the class that suits his personality best, Humanities, which stems from his natural interest in philosophy. But even in the past few years, Osing has still continued to take on new classes to learn more, and to try and cover topics better each time around in order to stay engaged with his students during the lesson plan. “One of my greatest accomplishments is finishing my career still in the middle of doing something fresh,” Osing articulated. “I took on AP Language as a new prep in my final two years and I was able to teach 3 different courses to my colleagues for professional development.”
Mr. Osing never stops learning or improving his teaching. The amount of knowledge his brain holds grows each day, never hitting its full capacity. As a student, I can attest that in every class he has something new to share. If you’ve had the pleasure of being in one of his classes, there is no experience quite like it, and even that is an understatement. His quirky personality, strange jokes, stranger accents, and referring to us students as his “urchins” are all a part of the Osing experience. Not to mention, his love for funky shoes keeps the jovial community atmosphere alive in his classroom and this positive energy only contributes to his lesson plans. Within these lessons, he loves introducing his students to new ideas. Mr. Osing explained how even as he teaches new ideas, he is learning new ones as well each day. “I look forward to reading my student’s papers and seeing what they come up with,” remarked Osing, his circular glasses perched lowly on the bridge of his nose. “I sometimes take their ideas more seriously than the actual student does. I don’t think the general public realizes how interesting and intellectually capable teenagers are.”
Like every English teacher, Mr. Osing has his favorite books which influenced him in high school, like To The Lighthouse (of which he is a proud owner of two t-shirts which he wears regularly while teaching the text) or Counterfeiters; he also has a distinct passion for the existential novelists Vonnegut and Camus, to which he has read at great length. But when students leave his class and move forward–either further into the English curriculum or to higher education–he wants them to take away much more than the understanding of a novel. As students continue to read past the classroom, the understanding of a novel isn’t the reason to read. Rather, it is process of reading and what you get out of that. “There is no rule that says that you have to understand everything you read,” shared Osing, an insatiable reader. “Read, struggle a little bit, and learn what you can and always be pushing at the edges of your ability. I’m reading books that take everything I’ve got to understand–even partially–and I still read books that way because I like the challenge. It’s the only way to grow.”
Besides his love for reading and new ideas, Mr. Osing has undergone many different experiences in his years at LFHS. One of the moments he treasures most was listening to the Madrigals Singers perform “In Dulci Jubilo” alongside his department chair, Brenda Perkins, who caught him tearing up and subsequently gave him two firm squeezes for comfort as he cried. He truly appreciates the small yet rewarding aspects of life and what teaching at Lake Forest has offered. Ever since his first year, and even until his very last day approaching the high school, when he is alone and driving by the school on McKinley Road he laughs out loud with joy. He is truly happy being a part of the school community.
As his final year at LFHS approaches an end, his legacy as a teacher will not be forgotten as he hopes to be remembered as “funny, knowledgeable and kind” above all other adjectives that may be shared. In addition to this, his impact on students and the intellectual curiosity that he inspires in his classroom will continue to show for years. He has prepared his students to be successful in the future through his English classes and, over time, has been considered to be a mentor to multitudes of students. Some of the greatest advice he has to share to students is pure and simple and fits perfectly for seniors approaching the next chapter in their educational careers. “Sure, it is important to find the right college that fits you, but the bare notion of the prestige of a college is less important. Any school you go to, you will get out of your college experience what you put into it. That to me is the most important thing when coming back with an education.” No matter the type of school you attend, getting an education will bring forth great knowledge and set your future in terms of learning more with every experience.
Although Mr. Mark Osing will soon be a retired teacher, he will continue to learn more with every experience. His spontaneous and quasi-adventurous plans for life after teaching will consist of traveling, teaching and taking adult education classes, learning bookbinding and book restoration, printmaking, reading and getting back on his “very good” bicycle. As he looks forward to the next stage of his life though, nothing can compare to the years he spent at Lake Forest High School. “This school, this town, my students and their parents allowed me to build a life, a rich and satisfying life. I have been very privileged to work here so long and so happily. I’ve been able to share the life of the mind with eager, funny, maddening, joyous, curious, talented, and struggling teenagers. I never stopped being delighted by what teenagers think and do. I will miss them.”