Mark's Novel on Kindle

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fishing the Santa Barbara River in northern New Mexico.

Latest book finishes in top 3of best in new sports books 2013.   That's not too shabby.

An Introduction to Fly Fishing for Trout does what few other books fly fishing books do well - offers clear instructions, insider tips, and more than a few secrets to both the new and intermediate-level fly fisherman. Starting with the notion that fly fishing is not difficult to learn, this how-to guide gets you on the water quickly without weeks and months of practice. It avoids the technical jargon and heavy-handed emphasis on advanced techniques that you find in many fly fishing books, instead providing basic techniques in a conversational style with tips for continued improvement. Comprehensive as well as approachable, this practical primer also includes over 200 color photos and illustrations to enrich the material. As lifelong teachers and fly fishermen, and the authors of over 20 books on fly fishing, Williams and McPhail apply their experience and expertise to help you choose gear, identify bugs and hatches, recognize trout species, and cast effectively. They then delve deeper into skills, strategies, and tactics like nymphing and dropper rigs, and touch on critical topics like stream etiquette, safe wading, fishing tailwaters, hiring guides, hiking into backcountry, using float tubes and kayaks, and much more. Even if you don’t live near trout water, this invaluable guide will teach you the techniques of fly fishing, for panfish, perch, bass, redfish, and almost any other species with fins. Regardless of your skill level, An Introduction to Fly Fishing for Trout is an invaluable tutorial and guide that you’ll reference again and again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New book from Stonefly Press out this spring. It's ours.

The book with Stonefly Press will be out from Quiller Publishers (Great Britain) in May, 2013:  Check it out. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Very nice article about the Brock award

Modern Teaching

Local alternative education teacher recognized by prestigious international prize for innovative, creative methods in the classroom

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Filling out standard worksheets, memorizing the periodic table, reciting the Bill of Rights in front of your classmates, watching them nod off at their desks – sounds like a stereotypical portrait of a classroom, right?
Mark Williams, an English, Speech and Multimedia teacher atNorth Heights Alternative School, would wholeheartedly disagree. In regard to his innovative teaching methods and forward thinking, Mark was recently named runner up for the prestigious 2013 Brock International Prize in Education. Usually claimed by highly regarded university professors and well-renowned educational reformers, academics such as Dr. Robert Marzano, cofounder and CEO of Marzano Research Laboratory, or Dr. Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and Harvard University professor, Mark is the first alternative educator and the first everyday teacher to be nominated in the prize’s history.
For a high school teacher at an alternative school situated in a city of less than 200,000 people, to even be nominated for this award is no small feat, stresses Stacey Harris, AISD Director of Content, Support and Instruction. Only nine people are nominated worldwide each year.
“We’re talking people who are theorists in our field, who speak to Congress, who really have power and influence on a national and international stage,” Stacey says. “And then, we have Mark, who because of his work here in Amarillo, Texas, this little place, a little pond, he is nominated for such a position. It is an immense honor to even be nominated and it is almost beyond anyone’s dreams here.”
Mark’s colleagues and students submitted a video to one of the prize jurors, Lori Lamb, urging her to nominate him for his experimental, and thriving, methods in the classroom. One for example, is the collaborative student project producing the Amarillo Tourism iPad app with the Chamber of Commerce, the first professional app designed by high school students in the United States. Mark is humble, and while he is proud of his recognition among the world’s most influential minds, it’s his job rather than this honor that validates his teachings. He loves his students, and he forges relationships with them that last beyond graduation day. They are “learning partners for life.”

“It’s not about the award because I feel validated day to day,” exclaims Mark, who has authored numerous books and iPad apps. “I feel validated for small things, not because someone makes a good grade, but because someone overcomes a struggle, or learns a new skill or understands a concept. I think for all my colleagues, for our staff and administrators, there is a certain sense of accomplishment with what we’ve been doing. We’re experimental here! And other people are recognizing that what we’re doing is working.”
Mark teaches what most people would pigeonhole as “at-risk” students. North Heights is a school of privilege, he insists, and students must apply to be accepted into the school. Alternative programs have been marred with the reputation of teaching students with behavioral problems but that’s not the case at North Heights. Many of Mark’s students are parents and live alone, having overcome challenges, struggles and misperceptions Mark never encountered growing up. They are treated like adults because they are.
“There are not many programs for alternative education that stand out right now,” says Mark, whose students are the first to produce a regular news-blog for their school district, “and I hope the exposure with the Brock Prize will facilitate that.”
Mark was 40 years old when he came to North Heights. Prior to that, he taught at Amarillo Collegeand Texas A&M University, and since he was a child, he recalls a disenchantment with the education system, much like many of his students today. Mark, who says he was an at-risk student throughout high school and college, teaches the way he would want to be taught. His ideas were met with resistance at first, but he continued to persist and move forward with his students because it felt right.
“They are me,” he professes.
Withstanding a period of hesitance from his fellow teachers and administrators, Mark’s system is now commended, and his modern approach isn’t just impacting students and teachers at North Heights.
“Our only model is how we were taught so we march back in as a new teacher and we line up those desks and stand in front and we start imparting knowledge,” Stacey explains. “Well Mark doesn’t do that. Mark changes the paradigm for us. And many other teachers in Amarillo are doing that, too.”
Mark’s method is what he calls “creative disobedience,” meaning he wants his students to understand that answers are not limited to right and wrong. He encourages his students to be open to and accept failure, because unless they fail, they never tried, and if they never try, then they won’t succeed. He wants them to ask questions and break the rules. He’s the person who believes you should ask for forgiveness, and not for permission.
“I want them to find unique learning,” says Mark, whose student-created series of award-winning PSAs about digital citizenship and internet permanency, won the best school campaign in Texas. “I want them to capitalize on their unique backgrounds. I want them to create and innovate.”
Students at North Heights, who dropped out of high school, who were expelled for cutting class, who would rather doodle in their notebooks and doze off than intently listen to an instructor, have embraced Mark’s teaching techniques and look forward to attending class every day. Mark realizes his students won’t learn from him reciting monotonous passages from a book, or demanding they memorize mathematical equations; they can find every fact and figure with a tap or swipe of their finger on a smart phone or iPad. Students need to be digitally fit in this day and age, he insists.
“He teaches students in 2012, for a life in 2012,” says Stacey, a former school principal. “Mark has figured out within four walls that still have the traditional desks… He’s figured out how not be limited by that. He’s figured out how to truly individualize instruction, so that every kid is heard. Every kid’s strengths and weaknesses are built upon and also erased. Weaknesses are erased and turned into strengths in Mark’s room.”
Mark predicts more alternative education programs will follow in North Heights’ footsteps, not just in this area, but all around the country. Since he began teaching, he has witnessed a movement that revolves around student-centered learning. Not all students are compliant, guessing what circle to fill in on their true-or-false pop quiz, when they know they can easily look up the answer on the Internet.
“These kids are much more informed when they come to school than we ever were,” he declares. “They are much more intuitive toward technology. They come with a set of skills and background knowledge that we never came with. They won’t memorize. They have Google!”
Mark says rigor, relevance and relationships maintain a student’s focus, and provide them with a lasting drive they will carry with them after high school. In his small-classroom setting of five to 10 students, Mark takes note of when students reveal their interests and finds a relevant form of teaching, ultimately building a relationship with his students based on respect and gratitude. And every day, those students thank Mark and reciprocate his passion by equally motivating and challenging him with their questions and ideas.
“If you find relevance with these students and you build relationships, they do not want to disappoint you. And they don’t want to disappoint themselves,” he adds.
Mark’s thinking is the way to move forward in education, Stacey agrees. Young adults and even children are so globally aware, and Mark’s system is the catalyst vital to the future of learning.
“It serves us to think like Mark is thinking,” Stacey concludes. “He really is a hero in our field.” 

by Drew Belle Zerby

After graduating from LSU in 2009, Drew Belle worked as a page designer in north Louisiana until moving to Amarillo and joining AGN Media in late 2010. In her spare time, she loves to read, travel and spout out useless movie trivia.
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Mark Williams, North Heights Alternative School Teacher,  Runner Up for Brock Prize

(STILLWATER, Okla., October 30, 2012) – Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, co-founders of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), have been named the 2013 Brock International Prize in Education Laureates for their commitment to underserved students and innovative contributions to the field of education. Feinberg and Levin will receive a $40,000 prize, and present at the annual Brock Symposium on March 15, 2013, on the campus of Oklahoma State University.

The Brock International Prize in Education, named for Oklahoma natives John and Donnie Brock, is awarded annually and recognizes individuals who have made a specific innovation or contribution resulting in a significant impact on the practice or understanding of the field of education.

“Mike and Dave’s contribution to education is exactly what the Prize is designed to honor,” John Brock said.

The KIPP founders were selected by a panel of nine jurors during a recent meeting in Stillwater, Okla., where the Brock Prize is administered.

Runner up for this valued and coveted recognition was Amarillo teacher, Mark Williams.  Mark Williams is an English instructor at North Heights Alternative School.  His recommendation was submitted by juror, Lori Lamb. 

“Mark Williams clearly exemplifies all aspects of the Brock Prize.  He was the first alternative educator in history to be nominated for the recognition.”  Lamb continued with the accolades; “Mr. Williams’ entry can be found on the site, it was an interactive technology enriched portfolio that demonstrated the daily interventions offered for student success.”

Principal Mark Leach also was heard nationally through his compliments concerning the numerous project based activities that motivate the North Heights students and was particularly complimentary concerning Mark Williams’ ability to motivate students.  The commitment, preparation and innovation used by Mark Williams clearly impressed the panel of jurors. 

Students in Mark Williams’ classroom were recently overheard: 
"I love this school."  
"Can you believe how lucky we are?"
"I was going to drop out." 
"Me too."
"So was I." 
"Me too."
"Wow, I was too."  
"You ever watch Mr. W?"  
"All the time."
"You see what he does"
"He makes you better."
"Yeah, but he lets you be better. He makes you want  to be better."  

Mrs. Lamb, President of The National Alternative Education Association reflected the students overall message concerning Mr. Williams.  “He was selected to represent alternative educators nationally and internationally because of his vibrant spirit and determination to nurture the achievement potential within all students.”

Williams is an alum of McMurry University, West Texas A & M and attended and taught at Texas A & M University.  He is a teacher, author of 20 books, 100s of articles, a public speaker, and app author. 

The prize includes a certificate denoting the honor, and a bust of legendary Native American educator Sequoyah. To ensure its perpetuity, the prize is endowed by the John and Donnie Brock Foundation as well as the Brock Family Community Foundation.
For more information about registering for the 2013 Brock Symposium on Excellence in Education, go to or contact Brock Prize Executive Director Dr. Ed Harris at
Christy Lang | College of Education | 405-744-8320  |
Ed Harris | Professor and Brock Prize Executive Director | 405-744-7932 |

Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU is America’s Brightest Orange.  Through leadership and service, OSU is preparing students for a bright future and building a brighter world for all.  As Oklahoma’s only university with a statewide presence, OSU improves the lives of people in Oklahoma, the nation, and the world through integrated, high-quality teaching, research, and outreach. OSU has more than 37,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 240,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Check out our guest blog to support our newest book  An Introduction to Fly Fishing for Trout  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When I get interviewed, I always think I sound pithy. In print, not so much.  


Sunday, February 5, 2012

North Heights Students Publish Two iBooks

North Heights Alternative School now has two ebooks available on Apple’s iBooks. Both books were originally published and sold through traditional brick and mortar bookstores like Barnes and Noble. These books are now available for download on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iBooks and on your computer with iTunes. Books must be read on an iOS device.

Voices from the Heights is an anthology of works from at-risk students at innovative, award-winning North Heights Alternative School in Amarillo, Texas. The stories are often gritty & personal but these young writers are courageous, creative & talented.Paintings on the Wall is the follow-up book to the wildly (and surprisingly) popular Voices From the Heights. This is a collection of works, essays, poems and other cool writings from the students and staff of North Heights Alternative School in Amarillo Texas. The book is truthful, blunt and reflects those things that today's teens are talking about and living through.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Durango Colorado last few days

We love eating at Ken and Sue's on Main -- yeah, that's a philly cheesesteak

MDW adding fuel to the fire

23rd anniversary -- last nine spent at Seasons except for that one when Seasons burned down. Not my fault. 

Black Angus Sirloin, onion strings, smashed potatoes.  

Fave restaurant in SW -- Seasons

Not much snow this Christmas

Amy standing out on the lake, frozen she hopes. 

2011 Was a Very Good Year

2011 was a good year.  Mac and I had our Colorado Flyfishing:Where to Eat, Sleep and Fish book come out from Johnson Books and it has been selling well all year.  I signed two more book deals, this time with new imprint Stonefly Press; one is secret but I'll reveal it down the line (it's big) and the other is the NM counterpart to the eat-sleep-fish book.  We are going over the final details for the University of New Mexico Press coffee table book, 49 Trout Streams of Southern Colorado (photo heavy but fun text too) and this book will be out in Spring 2012.

Mac and I finished a book last year for an unnamed publisher but they're holding the book so we're in deliberations.  After I finish these two Stonefly Press books, I'll have 18 under my belt. Back in 1989 when I first started writing, I wasn't sure I'd ever get one.

At North Heights, we completed the Amarillo tourism app and are waiting to publish it.  We also have a new multimedia studio in my room.
My Dallas Mavericks won their first championship, my Texas Rangers got to the World Series for their second year in a row and my Cowboys disappointed again.  Amy enjoyed a year of writing and modeling for Gap's Athleta line, my little Athleta Girl.  Fished a lot including Valle Vidal, all of southern Colorado.

I also have a book with my agent that I think is killer --- Dealbreaker.  Think of all the things a potential partner might do or be or have that would be dealbreakers.  That's the book.

I have the best friends but I made a lot of friends, both in person and online.    I look forward to this next year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Amy's Latest Athleta Article

Heart Health

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National MonumentI began thinking about this Chi entry several weeks ago while sitting in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit in Albuquerque after my mother-in-law’s unexpected, emergency triple bypass surgery.
This particular weekend I was supposed to be signing my name in the log at the top of another Colorado 14er with my sister-in-law, Tammy, a celebration of her newfound health.  Over the last year, she’s lost nearly 100 pounds, has completely changed her diet and activity level, and to top it off has started working as a flight attendant at 47 years old!  She’s on cloud nine.
But on this day we’re worried. My mother-in-law isn’t taking the normal path of recovery, she’s on a ventilator, and she looks so vulnerable.
Over the course of my mother-in-law’s 17-day stay in the CCU, I talked with a lot of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, and I read a lot of heart health articles.  I was trying to figure out the best ways to take care of our heart.
One pharmacist told me that people need to be more in charge of their own health, meaning we need to pay attention to our bodies so we’re in tune when something isn’t right.  We are our own best advocates.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My class and their PSA videos to Stay in School

Here's the link to the KACV videos for the Stay in School Video contest my advanced media class entered (for recognition and prizes.) Naturally, I'd like my class to show out. We appreciate your vote. Ours are: 


Amber Bray
Cynthia Garcia
Skyla Taylor



Class:  North Heights Mr. Williams

You can vote as many times as you want so feel free to get those fingers busy. Here is the link:Vote in the Video Contest for North Heights

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Great article on getting into scouting

Gina's first published article Check out my friend's first article -- she also has an app for iTunes about Scouting coming out any day now. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

while working on the book

Ran across this finishing up the latest book.         I don't know, I just like this pic of La Jara Creek. We didn't catch much in this stretch but we were the only anglers for 25 miles and we had a great campsite so it didn't matter.  Sometimes, it's really not about the fishing. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

16th Book Due Date Closing In

This is what it looks like, that crazy why-did-I-wait-so-late stage a week before a due date.  Notes, Pandora, Cab, cigar, 78 degree weather in my backyard.  Five rivers of forty-nine left to complete.  First coffeetable book, full-color pics and all.  I say it everytime but this one will be the one I'm most proud of.  Til the next one.  Due out this Spring -- 49 Trout Streams of Southern Colorado from University of New Mexico Press.