In an effort to reach all students, Knox County Schools has shifted student behavior modification from punishment oriented to a restorative model. Hardin Valley Middle School’s Restorative Interventionist, Mr. Marc Giles, sat down with me and plate of delicious tacos from Salsaritas in Hardin Valley (gone before I even thought to take a picture!). Here is a look at the man who is on the front lines of helping students get back on the path to success.
Adam: Where were you born?
Marc: Augusta, Georgia.
Adam: How did you come to Knoxville?
Marc: Basically, my dad is retired military, so we just kind of moved around to a lot of different places. When he retired, we moved to Atlanta for my first two years of high school. We moved to Knoxville for my last two years where I had to choose between West and Farragut. And I chose West, because of the mixture of people.
Adam: Very cool!
Adam: What branch was your father in?
Adam: Not everyone can be in the Navy but we are still thankful for his service!
Marc: He would say the opposite!
Adam: What was your middle school mascot?
Marc: At Ft. Campbell we were the possums.
Marc: Haha, no lie. They named it after a General, it was General Wassom, so we literally were the Wassom Possums. But I really went to 3 middle schools, Ridgeview, Offpost (they were the Cowboys) and then Shiloh Middle School.
Adam: What college did you go to?
Marc: I went to University of Tennessee
Adam: Right on.
Adam: What did you major in?
Marc: Of all things, Theatre. So yeah, most people would not think that. But yep, Theatre!
Adam: Do you have any acting chops about you?
Marc: Little bit, here and there!
Adam: What clubs or sports do you coach or sponsor?
Marc: At the high school level, I coach Football for Hardin Valley Academy.
Adam: What positions?
Marc: I’m technically the special teams coordinator. I’m the tight ends coach and I also help with the offensive line. Before then, I was at West High School. I coached the running backs for probably 10 out of the 12 years, and I coached outside linebackers for 2.
Adam: Anything else you’ve coached?
Marc: I’m the head wrestling coach at Hardin Valley. The really cool thing about that is we’ll be starting a youth program this year. We’re also going to do a club team with the middle school here. So you’ve got the middle school team which will obviously be the Hawks. And with the youth team, we’re trying to create one for all of west Knoxville, and there’s never been a school that’s done it for wrestling. We’re trying to get people from Farragut, Bearden, Hardin Valley, Webb, CAK, Catholic. We’re just trying to get all those types of kids to start getting a bigger interest in wrestling. We have Jason Bault and also Mike Weldon (to reach them, email firstname.lastname@example.org) who are going to be coaching the youth league team. Because we have a bunch of Webb kids and Hardin Valley kids right now, we named the team the Spartan Hawks and the colors will be like the [Seattle] Seahawks. I think it’ll be pretty cool in the long run, and we’re also doing an AAU team for the older kids after the wrestling season which has also never been done in Knoxville. You’ve always had to go to Halls or Heritage. I like to think of it as we’re building a bit of an empire, ya know?
Adam: My oldest wrestled with Jason’s oldest son last year. Great coach and it’s going to be a great program.
Marc: Hopefully if he decides to wrestle, he’ll be a part of the Spartan Hawks!
Adam: How many years have you been in education?
Marc: This would be year 12 as far as being in the building. I’ve been coaching for 14 at the high school level and also 2 years as a strength coach at the University of Tennessee. I like to say back when Tennessee was good, around 2001 to 2004.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t in education?
Marc: Definitely would have been a military guy. There’s a huge part of me, especially from a financial aspect that wishes I would have done the military thing. Whether it had been Army, Navy, whatever, I think I would have tried to fly or be a RIO (Radar Intercept Officer), or something in a Tomcat (F-14) if i had to do it all over again. Even though they’ve retired them since then, I would have done something along those lines for sure.
Adam: Were you inspired by Top Gun?
Marc: I was! But, I have a better story than most people when it comes to Top Gun. Top Gun comes out in 1986, my dad was stationed at Ft. Campbell, so between 88’ and 91’ we were on base. From where our house was, the air field was probably 3 or 4 football fields away, so we saw everything that flew in. My brother decided one day, when we saw a Tomcat land, that he was going to ride his bike up there and see what happened. He rides his bike up there and finds a building he can go into. About that time, they are refueling the Tomcat and the pilots are coming down to the waiting area. There’s a guy named Marcus Flag with the Black Knights. He gave my brother his patch, and he was hooked. He came home showed it to me, and I said “no way, we’re going every time!” From that point forward we were ‘airfield rats.’ At that point, everyone wanted to see a Tomcat, it was probably the best looking plane, and just incredible. Then you had Top Gun at that time too, which made it that much more popular. We either sat up in, or have been up close to just about every plane you can name in the Air Force and Navy flown in the late 80s or early 90s that was there. The Tomcat pilots were BY FAR the coolest guys on the planet. A lot of Air Force guys wouldn’t want to give their patches because they didn’t want to take it off their uniform, but the Navy guys and Tomcat pilots did it all the time. I have a frame with every squadron from the Tomcat units. Some were bought, some were mailed to me, but most of them were handed to me with hours of log time in the Tomcats. I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything. Can’t beat my childhood!
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Marc: I would say in elementary school, I had two at Ft. Campbell. I had Mr. Nelson and Ms. Hayes.
Adam: What did they teach, and why did you like them?
Marc: I have no idea what Ms. Hayes taught. I probably liked her because she was cute and nice to me. haha! Mr. Nelson taught Social Studies and I’m a big history buff. He was just a really good dude, I was encouraged by him a lot. To be totally honest, I don’t remember any middle school teachers. High School wise, Mr. Gary Petko.
Adam: I do know, Gary! From West High School…
Marc: His first year teaching, was my first geometry class and I’m horrible with math! If it wasn’t for Petko, I wouldn’t have gotten through math. I liked Ms. Humphrey, who also taught Social Studies. She used to say I was a great speaker. When someone tells you you’re great at something, it really sticks.
Adam: Name an educator you’ve worked with that you that you admire.
Marc: I’d have to say a couple people. Mrs. [Sallee] Reynolds (current HVA Head Principal) was my track coach in high school, and she knew early on. She tried for about 10 years to get me to go back to school to become a guidance counselor, and I just didn’t want to go back to school. Now that I’m older and looking at things from a financial perspective, I’m like ‘Man, I was stupid, I should have gone back to school a while ago’. Ya know?
Adam: She was right again!
Marc: Yep, she was right. I would say definitely Mrs. Reynolds. People that I’ve worked with personally, I really admire Mike Wise (Hardin Valley Academy), he’s a super organized guy that does things the right way and is about kids.
Adam: Two phenomenal people that I know.
Adam: Have you earned any professional awards?
Marc: I don’t think there are any I’ve won personally. Of course we won the state championship in football in 2014 (at West High School). I’m very proud of the fact that I’m the only person as a player and as a coach that has basically put banners up at West High Schools. Also, I think the other thing that’s been pretty satisfying award wise is having a few individuals as state champions in wrestling. For me to take the wrestling program and build it up and be known for winning championships and competing for them, to me that at least tells me I know how to coach.
Adam: Definitely, you have a nice coaching track record.
Adam: What life accomplishments are you most proud of?
Marc: That’s a good one. There are a couple of things. I was baptized at a very young age so I’ve marched the beat of a different drum throughout my life. Not that I’m perfect by any means, but that’s the thing I’m most proud of. I’ve tried to consistently be a spiritual influence on people and to have a relationship with God, which can be difficult at times. Of course I have my degree, I’m proud of that, and with being a head coach at 2 different schools, but that’s what I’m most proud of. One day I’d like to be able to say my wife and kids, but they just don’t currently exist.
Adam: What do you consider a successful student to be?
Marc: I think it varies. We’d like to put people in a box and say “all A’s” , but I think it’s different. I had a wrestler last year, Kenya, she’s a 4 time state championship, she was 87 and 0, won a scholarship to college. If the NCAA recognized wrestling, she’d be a massive D1 school, you know? She literally was the number 1 girl at 180 lbs. [weight class] in the nation and she’s 165 lbs. So she’s awesome. I expect her to do really well in college, she was a straight A student. She’s the type of kid that if someone was sitting alone at lunch, she’s going to be the one to go up and sit with that kid. She’s by far one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever had contact with. You have kids that are far above and beyond other ones. I think it’s hard to say what a “good student” is, every kid is different and you have to recognize what’s great about one kid as opposed to what’s great about another.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see in the public education?
Marc: When there are certain things that need to be taught to educators, I would like to see more “here’s how it’s specific to you” training at in-services. I would also like to see the value of school sports be more recognized. The biggest thing sports teach is life lessons. There’s so many life lessons in football and wrestling. Those things can be used to really help kids.
Adam: What is you role here at Hardin Valley Middle?
Marc: I’m the Restorative Interventionist. The old title was ISS (In School Suspension) but Knox County decided this was going to become more of a counselor position. It’ll be different at every school, but they wanted it to be more than just sitting in a room with the kids. Maybe they’ll have a silent lunch or something like that, but I’m trying to go around and build relationship with the kids. I’m kind of the glue between students and teachers.
Adam: What is something that you could use to reach students that you do not currently have?
Marc: I don’t think there’s anything I’m missing, it’s pretty much just me and kids and I have plenty of space. It would be cool to have books on everything. From History to whatever. I had a kid in here yesterday with math work, but history was what he was interested in. We got to talking about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I asked I’m to write a paper on George Washington and we went to the library to get some books. So for me, if I had a small library of some basic things I could give the kids for book reports would be nice.
Adam: What hobbies do you have?
Marc: Working out. There’s actually a body building picture of me right there from the early 2000’s. I’ll never do it again, because I don’t want to be in tight pants, or do the dieting again. The dieting is just awful. But I’m a huge Arnold fan. That’s one hobby, comic books, if you can consider that a hobby.
Adam: Marvel or DC?
Marc: Both. Probably more DC though if I had to choose one. But my favorite characters are probably Conan and Batman. Arnold kind of introduced Conan, the first Conan movie I saw was Conan the Destroyer. It was really cheesy, but I was hooked on those movies. That was probably the influence for me to work out too to be honest. Just a huge Arnold fan. I’ve gotten to meet him 3 times now, last year at the Arnold Classic. I do a lot of autographs too, maybe it’s the kid in me. Autographs, comics, and working out will do it.
Adam: What the best way for a student or parent to spoil you?
Marc: Chick-fil-a or Salsarita’s!
We will send you the Hardin Valley Coupon Book.