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Denair teacher remembered through buddy bench
denair teacher bench
A bench that will promote kindness and inclusivity at Denair Elementary Charter Academy was recently dedicated in memory of former teacher Mark Selee, who passed away in 2015. - photo by Photo Contributed

Denair Elementary Charter Academy may have lost a beloved teacher over two years ago, but his memory will live on at the campus forever thanks to a special new addition.


Mark Selee was a popular fourth-grade teacher at DECA, forming special bonds with students both in and out of the classroom. He was known to frequent the playground, often joining basketball games or other activities with children and promoting inclusion, interaction and respect all the while.


Selee’s sudden death from a heart attack during Thanksgiving break in 2015 rocked the DECA campus and saddened the community, but the memory of his energetic, positive presence remains through a memorial bench recently dedicated in his honor.


Known as a “buddy bench,” the new seat stands as a beacon for promoting kindness and fostering friendships on the playground.


“If someone is sitting on the bench, they want to be included in whatever is happening,” explained DECA Principal Kelly Beard at Thursday’s monthly Denair Unified Board of Trustees meeting.


The bench installed Monday provides a tangible way for all to carry out Selee’s legacy. Placed on the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade playground, the bench has Coyote paw prints and, rather than sporting a shade of purple like most items on campus, the seat is painted gold and black – the colors of Selee’s favorite professional sports teams from Pittsburgh (Pirates, Steelers and Penguins).


“As a staff, we decided we wanted it those colors,” said Beard.


Selee had worked on the DECA campus since 2002. He was in his second year as a fourth-grade instructor, and had previously taught physical education. He also oversaw the student safety patrol in front of the campus each day.


“He was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met,” said then-DECA Principal Sara Michelena at the time of Selee’s passing. “He was absolutely kind to everyone. He was the one who always took troubled students under his wing and worked with them, without judgment.”


In the aftermath of his death, the Denair community remembered Selee for his impact on children at school and as a coach for the Turlock Sea Dogs Swim Team.


A second memorial bench for Selee is on order, said Beard, and there is also a memorial plaque already in place for him in the gym.


“Some of our teachers touch it every time they walk in,” she said.