After four years at another school, English teacher Arika Mareck has returned to Park where she previously worked for 10 years. From 2006-2016, Mareck taught freshman and sophomores as well as being an equity coach involved in multicultural programs. After originally leaving for a job with a shorter commute, Mareck said she returned to Park because of what it offered her.
“I’ve always felt, as cheesy as it sounds, like St. Louis Park is my home and all my dearest friends are teachers or administrators in the district,” Mareck said. “A lot of the reasons as to who I’ve become as an educator has started because of people and the opportunities that St. Louis Park has offered, I just really value it.”
According to sophomore Maren Wilsey, since her return this fall, Mareck has been helpful and understanding despite the challenges of the time.
“With COVID-19, she has been trying to give us plenty of time to finish assignments, and she really tries to give or get feedback from us a lot to see how we’re feeling and if we need any more accommodations,” Wilsey said. “It’s really nice because she mostly does weekly check-ins—or at least every other week to see where we are.”
Mareck said her favorite part of being a teacher is connecting with students and being able to keep them engaged.
“It’s really nice to work with people and help them be better teachers and do better things for kids, but it’s another thing to be in the classroom and I miss being with the kids,” Mareck said. “That’s why I became a teacher in the first place.”
Sophomore Fiona Long said she appreciates Mareck’s flexibility and ability to connect with students.
“She will sometimes schedule one-on-one sessions to talk to us or give feedback on our writing since we don’t get that in-class time where she would usually directly talk to us,” Long said. “It can get hard when we’re in class for seven hours a day, and she recognizes that struggle.”
Mareck said she is impressed with the administration and how they’ve been recognizing potential struggles, though they need to change the way they are doing things on a consistent basis.
“It’s also been a real opportunity for us to look at education and to see what needs to change and how we can consistently or continue to transform education once COVID-19 hopefully becomes a thing of the past,” Mareck said. “I feel like it’s an opportunity to think outside the box. I always like to joke with my students and I say, ‘just throw away the box, like why do we even have a box?’”
Mareck said she is happy and excited to return to Park and is hopeful to make a positive change for students.
“I’m just so grateful to be a part of this community. I feel very fortunate; I’ve had a tough year, personally and professionally,” Mareck said. “I just feel so welcome within this community.”