Mark Malawey, teacher behind “It’s a great day to be a viking,” set to retire after 2020-21 school year

“It’s a great day to be a Viking.” A phrase heard by many each school year but whose origin is often overlooked. 

“After I got hired, the first thing I said to my administrator was how, ‘It’s a great day to be a Viking’ and it stuck,” PE teacher Mark Malawey said.

When Malawey started teaching 31 years ago, his first three years were at Howell North. Then he came home to his alma mater.

“It was always my dream to teach and coach here because I think this place is just that special,” Malawey said. “It was hard to leave North because I knew all the students well, but as soon as I got here, it just felt like home. 

Twenty-seven years later, he’s now looking towards retirement and a lot has changed. 

“Back when I started, every hour had a two minute bell that would ring. All the kids would pull out their cigarettes or their tobacco and smoke,” Malawey said. “They even had a spitting lounge for all the kids who dipped or chewed Redman or Skoal.”

While smoking lounges are a thing of the past, Malawey’s adjusted to other changes: new principals. New turf. New buildings and generations of students.

“The facilities here at Howell have become amazing. We have one of the nicest high schools in the state,” Malawey said. “The community is pretty much the same, but the philosophy of the teachers definitely changed. It’s a new mindset with a hard work ethic. I think that’s why we’re so successful at everything we do.”

Malawey also described the Howell community as the definition of family. He feels there is no high school where the kids come back continually like they do here.

“I’m going to miss everything. It’s emotional for me because this has been my life. It’s all I’ve done and there has never been a day that I have not wanted to come to work,” Malawey said. “This is my family.”

Malawey plans to return as a substitute teacher and make sure he attends many events. He also plans to run his painting business.

“What makes this place so special is not only the impact I’ve been able to make on these kids but also the huge impact they’ve all had on me,” Malawey said. “I’m a Viking and what a great day this is.”