Teacher wins Kohl award
Fellowship worth $12,000 total
By Angie Landsverk
Before Patrick Martin became a teacher, he was a software engineer, a stay-at-home dad and a tutor.
“I’ve always found that explaining things to people was something I was successful at,” he said. “The more I grew, the more I realized it was more of a natural gift. I can see the confusion and how I can help.”
Martin is a math and Project Lead the Way teacher at Weyauwega-Fremont High School.
He is among Wisconsin’s 100 teachers chosen to receive a Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Fellowship this year.
Fellowship recipients are educators chosen for their ability to inspire a love of learning in their students, motivate others and provide leadership and service within and outside the classroom.
Being chosen for the award was exciting and overwhelming for Martin, who is in his fourth year of teaching.
“Having not grown up in the teaching ranks, I hadn’t realized the esteem of it,” he said. “There are two rounds. I learned I made it through the first round and realized they give 100 of them. I started thinking, ‘Wow – that would be really cool.’”
Martin will be recognized during a Sunday, April 15 luncheon, at Fond du Lac High School.
He will receive $6,000, and the high school will also receive $6,000.
Jeremy Schroeder, W-F’s high school principal, nominated Martin for the fellowship.
“He has a good rapport with students, teachers, staff and parents and other community stakeholders,” Schroeder said. “Mr. Martin is involved not only in his classroom but outside of his classroom working with students and creating opportunities both fun and educational for them.”
Martin and his wife Catherine owned a local business.
As a result, he teaches students about knitting and crocheting on special interest and activity days.
“Mr. Martin engages and interacts with students on a regular basis at school through sporting events, concerts and other events. Mr. Martin was a professional tutor prior to beginning his teaching career here, and his care and compassion for student success and well-being are very evident,” Schroeder said.
Martin is also the district’s sound technician, a skill he uses as well at the church he and his family attend.
In addition, Martin works at and attends most athletic competitions and offers to help students with their schoolwork and futures, said Schroeder.
Martin received his Wisconsin licensure through the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Alternative Careers in Teaching program.
He explained the road he took to becoming a teacher.
Martin grew up throughout the United States, living in Louisiana, Alaska, Mississippi, Texas and South Carolina.
“My dad was a civil engineer,” he said. “We moved a lot.”
Martin also pursued a career in engineering and graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in electrical engineering.
His first job took him to Colorado, where he was a software engineer.
Then he moved to New Orleans and worked in information technology.
Martin moved there when Catherine was in medical school. Her residency then took them to Kentucky and eventually to Wisconsin when Catherine joined ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.
They moved here 20 years ago, and for much of that time, Martin was a stay-at-home dad. He homeschooled their two children: Lydia and Chris.
Catherine worked for 10 years and then stopped working due to her own medical issues.
“I went back to work,” he said.
Martin tried different things before deciding to go back to school.
“I had worked in IT before, but had been out of it 15 years,” he said. “Things had changed so much.”
With a degree in engineering, he only needed the education side to become a math teacher.
It did not take him long to complete the program.
He took a long-term substitute teaching position in Waupaca.
“At that point, we made the assumption when Catherine quit that she would do the homeschooling, but she was still not feeling well,” Martin said.
That is why he became a tutor.
It allowed him to continue homeschooling their children and schedule tutoring sessions around it.
Around the same time, he and Catherine opened a yarn store in Weyauwega.
They also signed Chris up to attend W-F High School.
He was already going to the school for choir and band.
With Chris making it apparent he wanted to go to college, they wanted him to experience the ebb and flow of the classroom.
“Right before school starts, I get a call from (District Administrator) Scott Bleck,” Martin said. “Scott said he wanted to stop by the store to talk about school.”
Martin thought the visit had to do with Chris, who was going to start his junior year there.
Instead, Bleck stopped by the store and said, “I need a math teacher. I hear you have a license.”
It was a few days before the start of the school year.
“It was calculus. It’s been like 20 years since I’ve done calculus, but I have the weekend,” Martin said. “It was a long weekend.”
He loves interacting with his students, but says the organizational side of teaching is still challenging for him.
“I do really well with the self-motivated kids who want to learn,” Martin said. “The ones who are just there because they have to be are the ones I really want to reach.”
One of the classes he teaches is integrated math.
Working with those students has resulted in him wanting to see a change in education, with a shift in attitude toward the skilled labor positions.
“I was raised with the expectation that I would go to college,” Martin said. “For most of my life, I passed that on to my own children.”
When he started teaching integrated math, he searched for things that would motivate his students.
As Martin looked at manufacturing, he realized there is a need for employees in the skilled trades.
They are good paying jobs, with more positions available than people to fill them, he said.
“I’m trying to get kids in high school interested in these skilled labor positions,” Martin said.
He works to prepare all of his students for the future, regardless of what direction they will take.
“I want them to have confidence going forward in whatever it is they’re going to do,” Martin said.