Schle’s ride

Retiring teacher seen much change throughout 34 years in journalism
Journalism teacher Mark Schledorn edits a design from a students story from the latest issue of the Roar. Hes firm with a lot of stuff, but he does it in a way that maintains engagement and students self-worth,   Principal Rick Fleming said.
Journalism teacher Mark Schledorn edits a design from a student’s story from the latest issue of the “Roar.” “He’s firm with a lot of stuff, but he does it in a way that maintains engagement and students’ self-worth,” Principal Rick Fleming said.
Sofia Palermo

For retiring teacher Mark Schledorn, the news is more than just a channel to watch or a magazine to read. After teaching for the past three decades, Schledorn has shared his passion and love for journalism with students all around Brevard County, building prestigious publications recognized at district, state and national levels. At the Florida Scholastic Press Association statewide convention this year, Schledorn’s staffs’ took home 18 “All Florida” awards, four “On The Spot” contest winners, and a “Sunshine Standout” award for having one of top news magazines in the state. Schledorn said he was proud and that his last FSPA convention was one of the highlights in his journalism career.

“In my 34 years, this was definitely one of my top five experiences,” Schledorn said. “My staffs went out on a high note. We’ve had similar highlights over the decades, but this is just an amazing way to go out.”

With newspapers landing on his doorstep twice a day, Schledorn developed an eye for current events. While the newspapers he skimmed initially garnered little notice, journalism gradually became something he “grew up doing.” Yet, once he graduated from Satellite High School in 1976, Schledorn’s upcoming career plans were foggy until a college placement office advised him during his junior year about the “job of the 80’s.”

“When I started down the public relations path, I had the skill set, but I didn’t have the temperament for it because public relations is a lot of, ‘Gee whiz, everything’s gonna be great!’ and I’m much more cynical than that,” he said. “I was much more attracted to the news editorial kids in my classes because the people in journalism had a real strong sense of justice; they wanted to right the wrongs in the world. I was like, ‘Yeah, I fit with these people,’ and that was the beginning of my journalism career.”

Work didn’t just fall into his hands as he expected, though. Thirteen months unemployed after graduation, Schledorn was surviving off of $8 a week working at a gas station and eating ketchup sandwiches from Burger Chef for dinner. It wasn’t until he received a job offering with “The News Chief” in Winter Haven that his journalistic work began. According to Schledorn, he quickly was in charge of designing the front page, and in 1983 the newspaper was nominated as fourth runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for its series of stories called “The Bad Apples of Education.” 

“There was a teacher at Winter Haven High School who had molested some kids, and we found out he was working in another school later on [and] he molested some kids there as well,” he said. “My boss came up with the idea for this series and said we really needed some kind of system so that these creepers can’t just keep creeping on people after they get fired. Even though we were fourth runner-up, being nominated was still kind of impressive.”

From there, Schledorn traveled from school to school to teach English and journalism. For three years, he suffered from welts at Titusville High School when students threw pennies at him. During the eight years he spent at Satellite High School in 1993, his newspaper and yearbook staffs won awards. However, a change in leadership at Satellite led him to reconsider his position, prompting his final move to West Shore in 2001. Since then, Schledorn has created the renowned publications students know today: broadcast channel WCTZ, yearbook “Arcadia,” and newsmagazine “Roar.”

West Shore alumnus Shane Winsten was the editor in chief of WCTZ News from 2022-2023. Now working as a journalism major at the University of Central Florida and recently obtaining a position as an Associate Producer at WESH 2, Winsten said that being introduced to journalism was life-changing for him. 

“If WCTZ didn’t exist, I would probably be doing something like engineering because I wouldn’t have discovered my passion for news,” Winsten said. “Having an environment where I can make mistakes, fail and know that I’ll still be supported really grew my passion. With just my high school experience alone, I landed a job offer from FOX 35. Not many kids can walk out of high school and say that they got that kind of experience.”

Winsten’s interest in journalism sparked in his freshman year of high school in Schledorn’s Journalism 1 class when he created video versions of assigned beat reports instead of written print stories. The first and only freshman on WCTZ News, Winsten said that although journalism derives from natural curiosity, Schledorn curated an environment of both high-quality work and consistent enjoyment within the classroom. 

“He had to work with high schoolers, and you’re not going to get the same passion from them as someone who’s pursuing journalism as a major,” Winsten said. “I give him a lot of credit for trying to build that interest, and Schledorn is very good at meeting you where you are. The fact that he respected our ideas means a lot; I would not be in the position that I’m in today with the opportunities I have today without him.”

The Roar magazine’s current editor in chief, senior Ella Dorfman, came onto staff her sophomore year. Her academic interest was originally in science research until she wrote a review on the “Winx Saga” on Netflix as a feature. Although she said she had little experience coming onto staff sophomore year, she said Schledorn’s “tough love” allowed her to grow as a journalist.

“Schledorn is useful in the aspect that he lets you learn things for yourself,” Dorfman said. “He doesn’t hold your hand while you do it, but he’ll make you do it anyway and that makes you become a better person.”

Dorfman said stepping into the position as editor in chief this year felt similar to “Imposter Syndrome,” unsure if she could live up to her previous editor in chief’s example. However, after discussing with Schledorn about her concerns for the upcoming school year, his reassurance gave her comfort.

“At the beginning of the year, I felt like I didn’t know how to do anything or properly lead,” she said. “I was like ‘Schledorn, I don’t know how to do this,’ and he said, ‘Just tell them to listen to you.’ That was the first time I knew that even though I was doing this on my own, I had Schledorn to back me up. Whenever I have problems, I can still always reach out to him, even if there isn’t an emergency.”

Dorfman said her final concerns as editor in chief lie in leaving the program in the best quality it can be, saying that she’s “proud of what the ‘Roar’ has accomplished.”

“No other school has something where they’re actively covering national and state topics, localizing them and discovering how it actually impacts education,” she said. “Without the ‘Roar,’ I’m sure a lot of kids wouldn’t know about the policies. We’ve all been able to come together and form a cohesive team with a good goal, and I know that the other staff members will carry this legacy on as long as it’s allowed to stay.”

Schledorn’s programs aren’t just recognized by the students. Longtime friend and boss Principal Rick Fleming said that Schledorn’s publications have become something “people want to be a part of.”

“With every kid that has gone into journalism and blossomed, it’s because of him,” Fleming said. “There’s no other journalism teacher that takes that kind of risk, but he doesn’t care because he believes in responsible journalism. He believes that you should be asking the hard questions. He believes that the students should be involved in the process of who’s shaping policy in the school system. He’s earned a tremendous amount of respect, not only from our school community, but even from local journalists and politicians.”

Even though Schledorn is leaving the classroom, he said he plans on staying in the journalism field throughout his retirement. According to him, the roots of our country lie within the freedom of the press and its ability to keep our nation grounded by freely distributing the truth.

“The health of a democratic society depends on a free press,” Schledorn said. “The framers of the Constitution knew it. If you don’t hold your leaders accountable, you’re going to get what we’re already getting now. We are in trouble if serious journalism doesn’t keep happening, and that’s what I’m passionate about.”

As Schledorn prepares to bid farewell to the school that has been his second home for over a decade, his departure will be deeply felt by students, faculty, and the local community. Though confident in his successor, Schledorn’s departure signifies the end of an era, marked by his dedication and mentorship. 

“You can’t replace a Mark Schledorn,” Fleming said. “The only thing you can do is try to get somebody that can grow to be that type of person. I wish I could have been half the teacher he is.”