By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 7, 2019
ATLANTA—John Martin would in the past show Atlanta teens the world with photos and maps using overhead projectors. Now, laptop-carrying students have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips on the web.
“If I had this stuff when I was growing up, I would have been blown away. I would have gone nuts, said Martin, who has taught in the classrooms at Marist School for 41 years.
Martin is this year’s Catholic Schools Week honoree for Marist School.
The walls of his third-floor classroom are covered with posters of lamassu, the winged deity of Assyria, and other antiquities. A large head of Anubis, the god of the dead of ancient Egypt, watches over the desks from a corner. It is here he teaches geography and ancient civilizations.
A New Jersey native, he is the middle child of three. His mother worked on an assembly line and his father for a pipe company. He traveled to the south to attend college at Clemson University. He and his wife of 45 years attend St. Jude the Apostle Church, Sandy Springs.
After his college graduation, Martin, who is 69, enlisted in the Army instead of waiting to be drafted during the Vietnam War. His four years of Army service included a stint at the National Security Agency as a Russian communications analyst. He returned to Clemson for a master’s degree in history. He came to Marist in response to an ad for a teacher to start an Advanced Placement U.S. History course.
Martin said the Marist School culture allows instructors to commit to what they are passionate about, teaching. He said working at this school frees him from administrative tasks that can eat up a teacher’s time in other schools.
He teaches middle school students, likes to use lecture and group work to motivate them to work together. He doesn’t like to travel himself, so Martin encourages traveling students to share selfies with ancient treasures, the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum or the Law of Hammurabi in the Louvre. The student photos end up in his slideshows, which delights them, he said.
Beyond memorizing dates and times, Martin wants students to leave class being aware of big themes.
“Civilizations come and go. There’s a certain cycle that nature and people experience,” he said.
Asked for advice for teacher, he said instructors need to be authentic with students, acknowledge you don’t know everything, and enjoy the humor and quirky views of young people.
Away from the classroom, Martin is a woodworker. He has put his skills to work building sets for school plays, where he’s assisted with more than 100 productions. Martin has created prayer stations along campus trails and even raised desks for colleagues. Previous to this Catholic Schools Week recognition, he earned the school’s Malachi Award for teaching.