Impactful coach, teacher dies at 57


Mark Rebora coached boys water polo, football and wrestling during his 26 years at Glenbrook North. Photo from Torch files.

Sydney Stumme-Berg and Catherine Zhang, Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor

The impact he has had on the students he taught and coached is immeasurable.

“The kids believed in him,” said Athletic Director John Catalano. “Kids believed that if he said, ‘We are going to run two miles today in the sleeting rain,’ they were like, ‘Okay, let’s go run two miles.’ … They believed that he was doing it for a purpose, that there was a reason for him to do whatever he was going to do in class. And they felt safe around him, and they believed that he was doing something in their best interest.”

Mark Rebora passed away on March 18, 2018 at age 57. For the last 26 years, Rebora worked at Glenbrook North as a physical education teacher and during his time at GBN, he also coached wrestling, boys water polo and football. From 2000 to 2014, Rebora coached all three sports during the year.

Rebora began his teaching and coaching career in 1983 at Gordon Tech, now known as DePaul College Prep, in Chicago. Then, he went to his alma mater, Loyola Academy, to teach health and to coach wrestling. He later joined the staff at GBN in 1992.

During first semester, Rebora had students participate in the Blue Jean Mile. Students in one of his classes ran a mile in blue jeans as part of a movement that encourages students to “get fit, get fast and embrace your pace.” Along with the Blue Jean Mile, he also initiated CrossFit at GBN and was a part of the team of teachers that started the schoolwide triathlon. According to Catalano, Rebora completed 17 triathlons in his lifetime.

“[Starting the triathlon at school], all this kind of stuff, is so typical of him,” said Catalano. “He was willing to try something [new] and [was very] enthusiastic about trying it. Get kids excited about getting in shape, whatever it would take. That’s his personality, that was him.”

Head Football Coach Bob Pieper said Rebora’s coaching style was unique and innovative.

  “He did a lot of things his own way,” said Pieper. “He knew what kids would do and what he could push to get things out of kids. He might veer off the practice plan because he thought it would better fit the kids and he could get them excited, hyped to do something fun, and that’s kinda the way he did his whole career. … Coaching wrestling, coaching water polo, coaching football, he did it his way.”

Physical education teacher Justin Georgacakis, who was coached in wrestling by Rebora beginning his sophomore year in 1997 at GBN, also had the opportunity to work alongside him for the past 14 years. Georgacakis said he gained valuable knowledge about coaching and teaching from Rebora over the years.

“The one thing I felt that I learned from him was … the fact that you don’t always have to coach out of fear,” said Georgacakis. “You don’t have to make your kids afraid of failure or afraid of not doing this because there’s going to be punishment. There’s a way you can talk to some of these kids and coach these young men and women by giving the positive. … It was great to see that in action.”

Bud Mathieu, swimming and boys water polo coach, said Rebora was a good role model for the water polo team and his impact on the team extended beyond the pool. He said Rebora helped his students grow not only as athletes but also as people.

“He had a lot of good life lessons,” said Mathieu. “He wouldn’t talk down to kids. He would say, ‘I’m talking to you man-to-man,’ and for a man like that to say that to a younger man, meant a lot.”

Senior Ryan Corfield, who had Rebora as a teacher for Freshman Boys P.E. and as a coach for water polo, said he was able to develop a closer relationship with Rebora throughout the years and looked forward to water polo because of him. The team also respected and greatly valued Rebora.

“I think we all looked up to him as a role model of who we would want to be in the future and someone who could lead us and show us how to be a role model to other people,” Corfield said.

Corfield said he enjoyed going to tournaments with Rebora because of his positivity.

“It was great to see him happy when we were doing well and just showing that our hard work that he taught us paid off,” Corfield said.

Georgacakis said one morning his senior year after a weigh-in for a wrestling tournament in Glenbard West, the team went to Rebora’s house for breakfast. The breakfast was a way for Rebora to bring the team together and has impacted Georgacakis’ coaching and teaching.

“We went, we had something to eat, I think we wrestled around with his sons and screwed around,” Georgacakis said. “It was really laid back. And from the very first year I became a head coach [of boys lacrosse], I’ve done that and I really credit that to him. … It’s just a way to give back and give back to the kids, to the team, to the parents. And as a coach I think we always want people on board with us, but sometimes we don’t do anything or give anything back.

“It’s a way to show people that they matter.”

Pieper said he loved working with Rebora and talking to him every day.

“The hardest part for everybody that’s working down here in P.E. is, ‘Do you still think he’s going to walk in the door?’” said Pieper. “And you know he’s not. Every day he made you smile, he made you laugh. He kept you energized.

“There’s people you work with, and there’s people you work with who you consider friends. He was certainly a friend.”