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Ruston High’s Martin ‘Teacher of the Year’ state semifinalist

Saturday, April 10, 2021
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Ruston High School math teacher Courtney Martin, a semi-finalist for Louisiana High School Teacher of the Year, teaches a lesson on exponential functions to one of her classes.

For Ruston High School’s Courtney Martin, teaching always came naturally to her and has been a part of who she is. She’s one who played school as a child, lining up dolls and stuffed animals to teach them simple addition on the chalkboard.

She was even a math tutor for hire before completing elementary school. However, that doesn’t mean the Bastrop native’s path to becoming a semifinalist for Louisiana High School “Teacher of the Year” has been direct.

“At some point, I decided I was going to be a pharmacist,” the 14- year education veteran recalls. “But two years into my college journey, I knew that wasn’t for me and switched to education. And it was a perfect fit.”

Martin would teach math at the high school level for 11 years before taking another detour. She accepted an opportunity to work with real estate students across the state, working within that industry for two years. However, her heart wasn’t in it and she headed back to the classroom in 2018.

“Math education is so close to my heart because it is so misunderstood,” Martin said. “I love the art of passing along knowledge someone otherwise did not possess nor understand, seeing those light bulb moments on student faces. That never gets old. And I like finding ways to move students towards becoming self-sufficient individuals.”

Martin said many students think math is hard or confusing and somewhere along the way decide they’re just not good at math. Yet she believes math makes sense and with practice and a little effort, everyone can do it.

“Years ago I read an article that said we as a society are not okay with illiteracy, so why are we okay with innumeracy,” Martin said. “I have never forgotten it and often say that in my classroom.”

The Algebra II Honors and AP Statistics teacher found herself challenged with the sudden instructional pivot amidst the pandemic.

For Martin, the sheer mechanics of teaching in masks, spacing desks, cleaning and sanitizing students and materials, teaching online and face-to-face simultaneously, and students coming in and out like a revolving door have laid a curvy path to navigate. Yet thanks to her all-star support team, the proud wife and mother of two daughters felt equipped to go the distance.

“My family laid the foundation for the person I am with all my confidence, ambition and integrity built and shaped during my child hood,” Martin added. “My husband is my biggest cheerleader and always pushes me to be a better version of me. So many people molded me into the teacher I’ve become and am still becoming. Kellye Ratcliff was my mentor during my student teaching months, and Marilyn Hyams was my neighbor during my first year teaching. These two ladies were amazing examples and gave endless advice.”

Reflecting on her career, Martin happily recalls becoming a virtual teacher and beginning the ACT Prep courses as well as building and maintaining relationships with students and families long after they leave the classroom. Plus there is the creation of lifelong friendships with co-workers. Yet Martin is clear in what drives her future.

“I want to continue teaching students that math is not scary, and it can be conquered,” Martin said. “I want to continue to prepare students all over the state for the ACT and see our local and state scores meet and surpass the benchmarks. I also would love to mentor other teachers, new and old, as they meet challenges in their classrooms, both with content presentation as well as classroom management.”

As for the possibility of state-level awards and further accolades, Martin has only one thing she’s really looking forward to.

“I can’t wait to teach without a mask,” Martin said emphatically. “And I am really looking forward to seeing the faces of my students again.”