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PE Top Teacher Named

PRINCE EDWARD – Sometimes life can offer an unexpected path.

Even for Prince Edward County Public School's teacher of the year.

"…I was not somebody who wanted to be a teacher from the day I was born,” Algebra I teacher Samantha Martin recently told The Herald, explaining how she got into teaching. “I graduated from college and had no idea what I wanted to do and started working with a juvenile delinquent population at a group home and helping them acquire community service hours. And, through that experience, realized that the key to their success was being successful at school.”

She decided to go back to school, get her masters degree in teaching “and really commit myself to the students who needed me the most-the ones who really needed somebody to love them and help them and guide them to be successful.”

Ms. Martin, a six-year teacher (her second in Prince Edward), originally from Northern Virginia (Fairfax County), attended the University of Virginia for her bachelor's (in the interdisciplinary area of Brain, Minds and Behavior, focusing on how learning takes place) and a Master's Degree in Special Education and Math. She is currently working on her doctorate now aiming for a degree in curriculum and instruction and could soon be a teacher coach and instruction specialist helping other teachers grow and learn.

Six teacher of the year nominees (two from each school) were selected by their peers and recognized in an April 4 ceremony. Each of the nominees presented essays and the Prince Edward Public School Endowment (PEPSE) selected the winning essay.

Other nominees included elementary physical education teacher James Baker, third grade teacher Angela Rainey, middle school life science teacher Shelly Clark-Reed and middle school computer/ITRT teacher Suzanne Smith-Tucker, and high school special education teacher Maida Wood-Davis.

Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith, in making the announcement, thanked Ms. Martin and all the nominees for “what you do day in and day out with the excellence that you display in the work with our students.”

Each receives a $500 award, with the overall teacher of the year receiving an additional $500.

Dr. Smith, who recognized the nominees and made the Teacher of the Year announcement, read an excerpt from Ms. Martin's essay: “Teaching is a profession that has hidden, quiet rewards. I'm rewarded through the relationships that I have with students. I mentor several students and I enjoy knowing that I'm helping them make better life choices. I'm also always thrilled to celebrate success with my students. After last year's SOL tests, all the students gathered in my room as we were waiting for results. (I) had tears of joy in my eyes and I was able to deliver the news everyone in the room has passed. There were shrieks of joy and comments of disbelief. Finally, they believed me that all of their hard work would pay off. I teach my students that even when faced with a challenge, if you commit and provide your best effort, you will succeed.”

Ms. Martin has taught in Fairfax and Powhatan and is currently in her second year at Prince Edward.

“…I love the students at the high school,” she told The Herald, later adding that the students are wonderful and she enjoys spending time with them.

“I didn't have a specific teacher that I felt reached out to me which, I think, makes me want to reach out even more to the students,” Ms. Martin said, when asked if there was a specific teacher that made an impact on her life. “I want to kind of be the teacher to them that I didn't have. I didn't feel like I really had a teacher that took time for me.”

High School Principal Craig Reed noted that they are fortunate to have her.

“She represents the change and the transformation that is going on at our high school,” he said.

Reed added that she's an “excellent teacher and she is very student-centered. Every time I go into her classroom, I see activities that are engaging and reach all of our learners.”