Juarez lives double life: teacher, therapist

Mark Juarez, U.S. History and AP Psychology teacher, went through numerous careers before finding the right one–or two in his case. In addition to teaching, Juarez is currently working as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist to complete the qualifications needed to take the exam and become licensed.

From working at Kentucky Fried Chicken as a teenager to being a computer software consultant, Juarez still had not found the right job for him.

“In the beginning, I was just looking for the right fit, something I enjoyed doing that made a decent amount of money,” Juarez said. “[I] didn’t have to be rich, but I didn’t want to be counting pennies.”

Juarez attributes his dilemma in finding a career to the salary of a school teacher. He said he was unable to look past the fact that his initial aspiration paid so poorly.

“When I went to school here, I went to our career center [and] looked up the salary of teachers,” Juarez said. “After five years of college, teachers made less than truck drivers. Well, why do I want to go through all this school so I could make less than a truck driver?”

Despite not initially having a degree in technology or even any formal computer education, Juarez assumed the role of a systems analyst at Ralphs supermarket’s corporate headquarters. Once hired, he was sent to Research Triangle Park, North Carolina to learn about International Business Machines’ proprietary operating system and software.
“Most [of the] computer skills you use on the job, you learn on the job,” Juarez said.

In the late 1990s, Juarez began to teach computer courses and enjoyed doing so. By 2002, he received his teaching credentials from California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA).

“[Your career] affects your life,” Juarez said. “Half of your life roughly is your job. If you don’t like the job you’re doing or the people you are working with, that’s a good chunk of your life that’s not comfortable.”

As more people entered the technology industry, Juarez struggled to find work in the computer field. After hearing about a job opening at SGHS as a social studies and psychology teacher, he took the opportunity to pursue the career he originally sought.

“As far as environment, as far as in doing something you like, the computer field is a meat grinder,” Juarez said. “Holidays? What’s that? You can work any time anywhere now. I wanted something that felt right, [could] value, [and] fit in with the people there. So nothing has surpassed teaching as far as that goes.”

With a desire to help students in a different manner, Juarez enrolled himself in CSULA to acquire the needed credentials to be a school psychologist. However, midway through his studies, he discovered aspects of it that made him reconsider.

“I discovered the only thing I liked that school psychologists do is therapy,” Juarez said. “I had a year in the program… so might as well keep going but change the track to [Marriage and] Family Therapist.”

After school, Juarez is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist for a clinic in Whittier. He said that he receives a lot of internal rewards from therapy.

“[In] therapy, you know when someone is benefiting from what you are doing for them,” Juarez said. “When you’re teaching 36 kids in a room, you don’t actually know how much you are helping them.”

Juarez plans to retire from teaching in four years, and after receiving his license for Marriage and Family therapy, intends to open his own practice.

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