Tracy Martin always wanted to be a teacher. Despite being told she shouldn’t become a teacher and several years working in the corporate world, Martin is now starting into her 21st year in the teaching field and has been chosen as the 2022-23 teacher of the year for Kilough Elementary School.
According to Martin, she’s known she wanted to be a teacher her whole life.
"I always wanted to be a teacher, but when I graduated high school and I was going to college my father told me “you are absolutely not going to college to be a teacher”; he said it’s the most underpaid, under-respected profession out there,” Martin said. “So I went and got a business degree, went and worked in the corporate world for 11 years and hated every minute of it — I always had this stirring inside of me the I wanted to be a teacher.”
So she took matters into her own hands and went back to school, this time on her own and to pursue a teaching degree.
“That has been the best decision of my life; I live out my dream every day when I get to come teach,” Martin said.
This year marks Martin’s 21st year in the teaching field. 14 of those years have been in the middle grades, and seven have been in elementary. This is her sixth year teaching in Dawson County, and five of those six years were at Kilough Elementary School as the school’s fifth grade math teacher.
Martin was chosen as Kilough’s teacher of the year by her peers at the school, and the announcement was made during the school’s field day closing ceremonies. She said that she was shocked and pleasantly surprised to hear her name announced for the honor.
“They recognize the teacher of the year and the family of the teacher of the year comes in so my son ran in and I said ‘why is he here?’ and then I saw my husband and my other family and said ‘oh it’s me!’ so it was a huge surprise,” Martin said. “I was shocked, I was humbled — it’s a huge honor that my peers chose me and felt that I met the criteria to represent Kilough as teacher of the year. I have to live up to that title now.”
She said that, during her time at Kilough, she is incredibly grateful to have taught under the leadership of the school’s administrators there.
“It’s easy to be teacher of the year when you work for Dr. Conowal and Ms. Bennett; they’re the most supportive, encouraging, inspiring administration,” Martin said. "I felt I grew in the profession because of their support and their encouragement.”
This year, Martin is teaching eighth grade math at Dawson County Junior High School and said that, while she’s sad to have left Kilough, she’s excited for the new adventure of teaching at the junior high.
“I was teaching fifth grade math and because of numbers we were going to lose a fifth grade teacher; I love eighth grade math and by the grace of God there happened to be a position here. It just worked out so I transferred,” Martin said. “[Dawson County] is my fourth school system I’ve taught in and by far it is the best. I hate to have left (Kilough); I’m sad that I’m not there but I really enjoy it here — I don’t know of a bad school in Dawson County.”
As a math teacher, Martin said her classroom motto is that anyone willing to put in the work can succeed.
“Everyone can be successful in this classroom and in math, but they’re going to have to put in the work,” Martin said. “I tell them all the time ‘we’re going to work to improve, it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon and by the end of the year you’re going to have everything you need to be successful in ninth grade, in high school’.”
She added that she works with her students not just on the math content, but also on study skills, how to be a good student, how to prioritize and other skills that will help them succeed in their education journey and one day in their profession too.
An added perk of now teaching at the junior high school, Martin said, is that for the next few years she’ll be able to once again teach many of the same students that she taught fifth grade math to back at Kilough.
"We went out in Covid in 2020; I was teaching fifth grade in Kilough — those babies are now in my eighth grade class so I didn’t get the full year with them then but now I have them again and get to see how they’ve grown and matured,” Martin said. “The next few years I’ll have my former students and I’m very excited for that.”
Martin said that her favorite thing about teaching is getting to share her love of math with her students and help them learn to love it too.
“I love to share my passion of mathematics with young people, and I tell them on day one of every year ‘math is hard and it doesn’t get any easier but you get better’,” Martin said. “I love the opportunity to motivate and inspire young people to become lifelong learners.”