Regardless of what Mark Steinberg taught in his science classes, he hopes his students left with a lasting, positive feeling. He affectionately refers to his classroom as “Steinberg’s World,” through which hundreds of middle-schoolers have passed during his 35-year career.
“Kids are malleable,” Steinberg, 58, said in his office last week. “They remember how you made them feel — and I hope they left Steinberg’s World feeling really good.”
Next month, however, Steinberg will leave that world, built up over the decades. He will retire from teaching in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District at the end of the school year. Steinberg will also depart from the presidency of the Bellmore-Merrick United Secondary Teachers Union, which he has led since 2013.
Steinberg’s roots in Bellmore-Merrick were planted long before he started teaching. He was raised in North Merrick, and graduated from Calhoun High School in 1979.
After college at the University of Pennsylvania, he landed his first teaching job at the Jerusalem Avenue School in October 1984, when the building was still part of the Central High School district.
Since then, Steinberg has taught in every one of the district’s buildings except John F. Kennedy High School, he said.
His main home, however, has been Grand Avenue Middle School, where he teaches life science, primarily to seventh-graders.
He also coaches girls’ and boys’ volleyball, girls’ softball and track there.
Students may not remember the content of his lessons, Steinberg said, “but you can always pass on a feeling, one that puts them on the right track to be successful.”
Steinberg passed that feeling on to his colleagues as well. “Mark would always work towards positive morale,” said Mara Bollettieri, the district’s deputy superintendent. “The better people feel about coming into work, the better it’ll be for the kids — and he definitely has that philosophy.
The same engagement he has with his students can be seen with the staff.”
“Mark is someone who sees the big picture — not everything is a crisis,” said Mike Dolber, the union’s president before Steinberg took the reins. “He’s laid back and calm, but he’s also emotionally involved and cares.” When Dolber was ready to step down, he said, he was somber, but pleased that the union would have steady leadership.
The union presidency is a position Steinberg never thought he would take, he said. But “unions in general are essential,” he added, and he has fought hard to support its 500 members. When staff dealt with problems, he took care of their needs. “We want a collective voice,” he said. “Many voices are stronger than one.”
After his father, a teacher, died of a heart attack while Mark was in college, he decided to follow in his footsteps. “I still feel him with me,” he said.
Steinberg’s wife, Lisa, teaches special education at Mepham High School. They met in 1990 through the district, and have raised two children, one a University of Delaware graduate and the other a junior at the University of Miami. They will retire together this year.
Some of Steinberg’s greatest takeaways from his career are students’ visits to his classroom after they’ve moved on to high school, he said. “You can see it by the expression on their faces,” he said, “a good feeling about their time in Steinberg’s World.”