Mark McMahon (’77) has taught honors physics and AP physics I & II at MDS for ten years. He returned to Macon and his alma mater after retiring from a 30-year teaching career in Nebraska. There are a lot of Cavaliers in Mark’s family: his four siblings went to MDS; his wife, Mary Rooks McMahon, also graduated in 1977; and his son, Sean, graduated in 2018. Mr. McMahon holds a bachelor’s in physics from Mercer University and a master’s in science education from Peru State College-Nebraska. In addition to teaching, he enjoys hiking and being outdoors.
What do you like most about teaching and what challenges you?
I enjoy interacting with students and especially watching them learn. I thought teaching during the pandemic would be difficult, but our students have met that challenge in a very positive way because they are following the rules. It is always a challenge to motivate those students who aren’t as eager to learn, which I try to do with engaging demonstrations of abstract concepts.
Describe a favorite activity or lesson.
When we study pressure, which equals force over area, I lie down, and place a bed of nails on my chest then a cinder block. A student uses a sledgehammer to break the cinder block, and they instantly see how the force is distributed over the area of the nails and make a connection to energy changes. I’ve also placed a student inside a heavy trash bag, and sucked the air out with a shop vacuum; they see that the student can’t move because the pressure outside of the bag is greater than the pressure inside. Note: A true teacher, Mark demonstrated the effect of charging tape with electrons during the interview!
Besides content, what do you hope your students learn?
I want them to know that learning is fun. I have found that students put in the effort when you make it fun and enjoyable. I also want my students to appreciate diversity and respect our differences.
What do you think makes MDS unique?
Mount de Sales is a Catholic school that welcomes and accepts students of all backgrounds and different religions into our school community. This is not true of all religious schools, and it is a value that I hope continues here. I really appreciate the broader diversity of the student population and the positive effect that MDS has on everyone.
What were you like as a student?
My wife, Mary, said she couldn’t believe that they gave me the keys to MDS! I was a decent student, but certainly not a straight-A student. In high school my focus was sports, especially football, and as a freshman I walked onto the football team at the University of Nebraska. Ron McLachlan taught me at MDS, and he is one of the main reasons I became a teacher. When I began tutoring students as a sophomore in college and my football career ended, I transferred to Mercer to major in education.
Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.