The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

Humans of WEGO: Mark Poulterer, the storyteller

ESL teacher Mark Poulterer has a heart for collecting and sharing stories – and adventures.
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ESL teacher Mark Poulterer and WEGO alum Jared Winquist have traveled together in search of adventure. (Photo courtesy of Mark Poulterer)

Who comes to mind when “unique”, “caring”, “responsible”, but most of all, “selfless” is brought up in conversation? The one who does everything from the kindness of their heart and not for the money, and gives back to the community? Mark Poulterer is an English Second Language (ESL) teacher at West Chicago Community High School who shows the best qualities in a person.

Poulterer is an all-around family guy whose multiple hobbies include tie-dying and blogging. His tie dye shirts are sold for $25, usually around the summer at craft shows and folk festivals. Poulterer started doing the side hustle 15 years ago when he and his wife wanted to try something new. He started buying dye from Walmart, but found the products did not work out quite as he hoped.

Oscar, Poulterer’s classic VW, has made many trips, and even served as a backdrop for Homecoming photos in the past. (Photo courtesy of Mark Poulterer)

“Then at my church, these people were having a fundraiser, and they had these gorgeous tie dyes from Brazil, it was yellow, and blue, and green. And I was like, ‘How did you get those colors?’ and they explained it to me, where they got their die from. And so then, I bought the dye and I started dying and then just kind of did it for fun,” Poulterer said.

Since then, Poulterer has helped dye shirts for the girls’ soccer team, Horticulture Club, his advisory (den before COVID) and his junior den last school year.

“And then I was like, ‘Hey, wait, I could probably sell these things.’ So I started to sell them at craft shows where you can make your own shirt. I have the dye there, I have the shirts there, and then people take the shirts home and they rinse them out themselves. And it’s been a lot of fun for people,” Poulterer said.

For his 50th birthday, Poulterer went on a road trip across the country and called the adventure a “Tie Dye a Day Giveaway”. He gave away tie dyed shirts once a day as he traveled to Colorado in his green Volkswagen bus named Oscar. Poulterer did not charge for the tie dyed shirts: he gave them away for free in every place he visited as long as the person shared some sort of life lesson they have learned.

“The only thing they had to give me was a piece of life advice,” Poulterer said.

During one of his shirt exchanges, Poulterer received the advice from a shirt recipient that “there are no mistakes, it will all come back around and you’ll be ready for it.”

Coincidentally, 20 minutes later, Poulterer’s bus caught fire when he was not expecting it.

“I was like, I have just made the biggest mistake of my life to drive out here, and remember, she said, ‘there are no mistakes,’” Poulterer said.

Along the road trip, a traveler, also named Mark, was in the process of getting a new engine for his Volkswagen bus at a service station. After he heard what happened to Poulterer, he offered him his engine, and all he the latter Mark had to pay was the installation cost.

Perhaps there are no mistakes in life, after all.

Poulterer with his family, including daughters Isabel and Cecilia. (Photo courtesy of Mark Poulterer)

Poulterer collects and shares stories like this one on a regular basis. Previously, he ran two different online blogs, including one centered around the “Tie Dye a Day Giveaway”, and another about the adoption of his daughter, Cecilia. Poulterer also sends out “Stories from Room 129” (although he no longer teaches from that room) periodically to the staff at West Chicago Community High School. These stories highlight some of the experiences he has had with students, as well as the challenges they have overcome.

Poulterer is an established ESL (English Second Language) teacher at WEGO. Since he teaches ESL, he is often one of the first staff members students meet when they come to West Chicago, which makes Poulterer an imperative part of students’ transitions to West Chicago.

“He is the kind of teacher that wants to know your story. He wants to connect and help you learn all the possibilities this school and country have to offer. He is one of the first people from WeGo that newcomer students meet. He is one of the reasons students start to settle into a new life with hope,” Director of the Dean’s Office and Bilingual Education Veronica Jimenez Winton said.

Poulterer has assisted an abundance of students to master the English language so they can attend grade-level courses. He cares for his students and their success at WEGO.

“Mr. Poulterer is a great teacher and a great person in general. He is always trying to help students inside and outside of the classroom. he is the type of person that you can always count on as a teacher and as a friend. He pushes you always to be better version of yourself,” senior Rafa Herrera Mota said.

Poulterer encouraged Herrera Mota to get involved in baseball.

“He helped me follow my goal of doing so. He was there since the beginning and that may be the reason why we all appreciate him so much. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity of knowing a great person like him,” Herrera Mota said.

Outside of the four walls of West Chicago Community High School, Poulterer has a passion for travel and the outdoors. It is that desire for adventure that led Poulterer to learn how to mountain bike at the ripe age of 40 years old. Once he had a “handle” on the proper techniques, Poulterer rode the 401 trail in Crested Butte, Colorado, with one of his friends, former WEGO student Jared Winquist (’00).

These experiences have been eye-opening for the ESL teacher. Winquist fondly recollects “watching him wipe out on his bike in hilarious ways and seeing his reaction when we took students to the Bartlett Nature Center and they brought out giant hissing cockroaches.”

The pair also hiked 22 miles in the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, an impressive feat that some might consider an accomplishment.

Yet, Poulterer does not like the word “accomplishment”.

For him, experiencing the world, building meaningful relationships, and overcoming obstacles is “what I would like to be remembered for. Someone who was always looking for ways to make the world around him a better place.  Someone who loved others and continued to give, even when it was hard.”

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About the Contributors
Brandon M. Heath
Brandon M. Heath, Multimedia Content Creator
Brandon M. Heath is involved in the swim team, marching and concert band. He got into music because his middle school band director inspired him - and his sister also played a role. Brandon enjoys making friends through music, and his favorite memory at WEGO involves the Disney trip the music department went on in 2023. Outside of school, Brandon can be found spending time with friends and family, as well as watching baseball. As a senior, Brandon has learned responsibility and what makes a good friend throughout his high school years.
Sasha Baumgartner
Sasha Baumgartner, Editor-in-Chief
Sasha is a senior, and this is her third year being a part of the Wildcat Chronicle. She found a swift passion for journalism during her sophomore year, learning how to write for fun and in many different ways. She has continued with the paper since 2021. Outside of journalism, Sasha is a member of the WEGO Dance team, a ROAR mentor and a member of National Honors Society and WEGO Global at the high school. Sasha’s main hobbies outside of school include working at a retirement community serving guests in the dining room, spending time with friends and family, and finishing up work for the Wildcat Chronicle. In the future, Sasha plans to attend college for psychology to be able to help people on a daily basis. 
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  • Mrs. Gierzynsk-subFeb 1, 2024 at 11:26 am

    Well-written article profiling a true gentleman. Mr. Poulterer’s “Stories from Room 129” should be required reading for anyone who thinks that immigrants are freeloaders who have nothing to contribute to our country. Sometimes he makes me laugh–but just as often, his words bring tears to my eyes. Wego is very lucky to have him as their ESL teacher.

  • Mr. AielloFeb 1, 2024 at 10:55 am

    Well done. Mr. Poulterer is truly an inspiration.