Mark Avelar has big plans for his 60th birthday: retirement.
Avelar, associate superintendent of instruction for the San Mateo Union High School District, is just weeks away from golf, gardening and traveling. The administrator will be ending a 37-year career in education in San Mateo County. It was a hard decision for the native local, but one with which he’s at peace.
Born and raised in South San Francisco, Avelar was among the first to attend El Camino High School when it opened in 1964. Only ninth and tenth graders attended the first year, with an additional grade added annually. This gave Avelar the chance to be a senior for three years. During the reign, Avelar became the first school president helping to choose the school colors, mascots and beginning traditions.
Avelar received three degrees — bachelor of arts in history, teaching credential and masters of arts in education administration — from the University of San Francisco. During his early years at USF, Avelar was the team captain of the golf team. The leadership role came with many coach-like duties. It was Avelar’s first taste of teaching. It’s what hooked him on education. Until this point, Avelar had always considered law school as the next step.
"I remember when I told my dad that I wanted to be a teacher. I thought he might be disappointed because it’s not as lofty of a goal. But he asked me, ‘is that your passion?’ And I said, ‘yes.’ He replied, ‘then I’m sure you’ll be really good at it,’” said Avelar.
With his father’s blessing, Avelar got started. He returned to El Camino High School to begin his teaching career in 1969. Avelar taught physical education and history while coaching football, basketball and golf for seven years before moving up the ranks to assistant principal. He was then overseeing many of the teachers who taught him.
Avelar spent 23 years in the South City district, working at El Camino, South San Francisco High School and Alta Loma Junior High School. He returned to El Camino in 1985 as principal — the second in the school’s history.
Avelar joined the San Mateo Union High School District in 1992 as the Aragon High School principal; a position he held for four years before joining the district administrative staff. Many things were added to the curriculum since Avelar took over such as, the seven-period day, the academic core and college standards learning. The foundation was laid, now it’s someone else’s turn to take the level of accomplishment higher, he said.
December won’t mark the end of Avelar’s work with the district, however. He will work on contracts when needed until a replacement can be found in the spring. The reduced hours will allow more time to enjoy life and the things Avelar loves, like his wife of 38 years, Linda.
"He’s a terrific guy with a great sense of humor. He’s extremely dedicated to his work. He’s accomplished a lot during his career. He has a good personality and is great at getting at the core of the issue and problem. I’ve always thought he was a good problem solver,” she said.
The couple met while in eighth grade and began dating during their sophomore year. They married six years to the day after their very first date and never looked back. Early on, Linda Avelar knew she had found the one.
"She tells me she knew I was the one when she saw me in the school play. She started flirting after that,” he said.
The pair shares a passion for education. Linda Avelar is the dean of the creative arts/business division for the College of San Mateo.
"He started introducing me as his first wife,” she said. "So now I introduce him as my first husband. People tend to look at us when we say that.”
They have one daughter, a 30-year-old physical therapist named Tina.
The left-handed golfer will be traveling very soon. He already has plans to hit up Cabo San Lucas, Tahoe, Palm Spring and Acapulco. Avelar is still very active in the golf work, acting as the chair of the 2007 U.S. Amateur planned for next summer.
"When I’m on the golf course, it’s the only thing I think about,” he said.