Our middle and upper school coordinator and middle school history teacher, Brian Martinez, is constantly pouring into our students, giving them wisdom for life and advice for all kinds of situations they encounter. He lives life alongside them. He shares from his own experience…as a dad, as a Christian, as an adult, as a mentor, as a friend, and as a teacher. He’s a witness to our students’ formative years and he’s helping shape them. And as a history teacher, he’s constantly looking at life through the lens of history. How did we get to where we are? What have we learned? Where are we going?
Recently, Brian had an opportunity to travel to Italy. The trip was more than a vacation. It was actually funded by an organization called “Fund for Teachers.” He had been encouraged to apply for a grant through the local Vadnais Heights chapter of the organization, which awards fellowships for different types of opportunities for teachers to expand their breadth of knowledge and experience.
We asked Brian a few questions about his time abroad, about his experiences, his perceptions, and what he took with him from the amazing opportunity.
Q. How did this opportunity come about?
Two years ago, I applied for a fellowship and was rejected. I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to go through the grueling process again. Last winter, I received words of encouragement from a friend, and I reapplied. I was awarded my grant. It was a great lesson in perseverance for me and for my sons. I modeled “never give up” and, “if it’s worth fighting for, fight for it.” I shared this experience with the students at Liberty, too.
Q. What did you learn from the whole process, and from your time in Italy?
Oh my! I left Florence with a deeper understanding for how deeply connected the Medici family was to Renaissance art. They truly funded the most iconic statues and pieces of art of the time period. I saw, walked through, and touched statues, cathedrals, churches, streets, and the baptistery. I learned how deeply important it is to celebrate your history; that it forms you, helps to develop who you are, and influences you…warts and all.
I also learned how intimately art is what it is, while also containing a story that isn’t always told unless you understand the time period, symbolism, hidden meanings, jokes, and jabs. My fellowship confirms my belief in the importance of travel to experience first hand, to learn, to interact, to try and communicate with others in a foreign language, to appreciate the gifts I have and to see all God’s work in His people and creation. Travel is the best teacher!
Q. What do you want Liberty students to learn from your experience?
I want students to know that history, by definition, is in the past, but in reality, it is the present, and it influences our future. Without a firm understanding of where we’ve been, we don’t have a vision to produce goals for where we want to be. All travel gives you the opportunity to borrow from cultures to improve one’s life, and who doesn’t want this?!
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In his book, Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry said that telling a story is much like grabbing a handful of sand. It’s impossible to get it all. I suppose that’s a pretty good description of Mr. Martinez’s experience over the summer. It’s not captured in a few pictures or in a short article. The best way to really see what it did for him would be to talk with him, to hear his firsthand experience, to see his eyes light up when he talks about the whole experience…from applying for the grant to flying overseas. It would be in hearing his stories, his descriptions, and his experiences. It would be in seeing how it shaped his view of the world, his view of teaching, and his view of his students.
So if you get the chance, ask your students what they’ve learned from Mr. Martinez. It’s sure to be something significant, as he continues to learn from his experience abroad.
To read more about the “Fund for Teachers” organization, go to fundforteachers.org.