Janesville physical education teacher Mark Mullen wins Crystal Apple award

Janesville Craig physical education teacher Mark Mullen knows how to push students, in the weight room and in life.
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 6:13 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2023 at 6:57 PM CDT
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JANESVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) - Many teachers will tell you they go into teaching to make a difference. One teacher in Janesville has been making a dramatic difference for three decades, including for some students who say he has changed their lives forever.

Janesville Craig physical education teacher Mark Mullen knows how to push students, in the weight room and in life.

“I owe him the world, man like, I wouldn’t be here without him,” said Mullen’s former student and Badgers player Keeanu Benton. Benton said Mullen was able to get in touch with Chris McIntosh, now the athletic director at Wisconsin, and talk about him as a player. Benton was invited for a visit and the rest is history.

Mark Mullen
Mark Mullen(Mark Mullen/NBC15)

After playing for the Badgers, Benton was drafted two weeks ago to the Pittsburgh Steelers, marking a full-circle moment for Mullen.

“It’s humbling, but also makes you feel pretty proud and pretty thankful that I made that call,” Mullen said.

Benton said Mullen takes it to another level and is a rock for many students.

“He’s not only going to be a teacher, but he’s going to get to know you personally,” Benton said. “You can go talk to him in is office if you need anything, if you’re going through anything and that was always the rock that I could lean on.”

Mark Mullen
Mark Mullen(Mark Mullen/NBC15)

Senior Emma Roberts said she can lean on Mullen for support.

“Going to my softball games, the little things,” Roberts said. “Showing up. My dad wasn’t able to show up for me, because he was so sick.”

Roberts said Mullen is like a father for her.

“Mr. Mullen really reminds me of my father.” she continued. “So, after he passed away, Mr. Mullen kind of stepped into that position and became almost like a father figure to me.”

Mark Mullen
Mark Mullen(Mark Mullen/NBC15)

Mullen is a father figure for others, while he experienced the worst grief a father could endure. Mullen’s eldest son, Grant, crashed his car in the summer of 2021. Three weeks after planning his graduation party, his family needed to plan a funeral.

“Oh I love that kid so much,” Mullen said. “It’s just, it’s still hard to believe every day.”

Hundreds showed up to support the family.

“Us trying to recover and feel better was realizing that we really do have to appreciate everything else that we’ve got,” Mullen said. “Grant isn’t here to be with us for it. I know he’s looking down. I know he’s paying attention.”

Counselor Sara said Mullen’s life hasn’t always been easy, but he continues to make a difference.

“I see how he relates to the kids in the building who at lot of times maybe go a little unnoticed,” she said.

“I know that there’s a million more of those moments going on when I’m not watching,” she added.

“He doesn’t realize the impact he’s made on me, I don’t think and I want him to know that,” Roberts said. “He, my life has changed because of him.”

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