Mark Geiger has two passions — the classroom and the soccer field.
As of Friday, Feb. 1, the high school math teacher will be leaving one for the other.
After teaching at Lacey Township High School for 17 years, Geiger, 38, will be leaving the district to referee professionally. His resignation was approved at the December Board of Education meeting.
“It was hard,” Geiger said of his decision. “(Lacey’s) a great place. I’ve had a good run here.”
Geiger began reffing at 13 years old as a way to make a few extra bucks. Over the years, he was seen by the right people and went professional, he said. Most recently, he refereed at the Olympics.
To reach his goal of refereeing at the World Cup, Geiger would need to put more time in at seminars and tournaments. Major League Soccer and US Soccer will now be employing referees through the newly created Professional Referee Organization.
“It was something I would have to do,” he said.
By refereeing with the Professional Referee Organization, Geiger will partake in both classroom and field training, he said. He would be assigned to games throughout the season.
“It’s a new opportunity. It’s going to be a new lifestyle,” he said. “It’s exciting.”
Leaving the classroom, Geiger said he’ll miss the kids most but couldn’t pinpoint a favorite memory from his time at the high school.
Geiger was involved in many extracurricular activities in addition to teaching, including the math, pep and drama clubs.
“Each one of those things brings out a memory,” he said.
High School Principal James Handschuch has known Geiger for many years. They even taught in the district together, Handschuch said.
“Leaving high school and throughout college, I always wanted to be a math teacher,” Geiger said, adding that his mother, who was also a teacher, was possibly his influence.
“I enjoy teaching because you are able to teach, mentor, guide and influence children,” he said. “So many of our children are looking for positive role models and people to look up to. I like being that figure for them.”
Geiger enjoyed teaching the students that math is an “exciting subject” with practical applications to their daily and professional lives, he said.
“So many discoveries can be made using mathematics, and I really enjoy watching the students make these discoveries in my classroom,” he said.
His goal was to instill confidence in his students that they can “do math,” he said.
And that he did. Last year, every student that took the AP mathematics exam, passed and earned college credit, Handschuch said, an uncommon feat.
“By being a teacher, he chose the right profession,” Handschuch said. “He knows the task at hand.”
Geiger is all about “student learning,” he said, adding that he has a certain way with the kids.
“There’s definitely a gift there that he has and shares with the students,” he said. “He’s a good man. He’ll be tough to replace.”
Handschuch was proud that Geiger had intentions to remain with the district as a active substitute, understanding his need to leave.
“It’s something he has to do,” he said.
In the past Handschuch has turned the television onto a professional soccer game and saw Geiger at work as he has made game-changing calls.
“It’s really sharp,” he said.