- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) - Liz Martin has a passion for helping kids learn.

That passion is on full display whenever she enters a classroom. She always find the students who need help, it is what comes naturally to her.

“This is really where my heart is at,” Martin said.

A Goshen College graduate and the daughter of Wakarusa dairy farmers, Martin found out she enjoyed teaching after spending four years thinking she would go into business.

“I was going to school for my bachelors in business and I had a senior internship that went well, but was really just OK,” she said. “I noticed that whenever I was in a room full of kids I lit up and so I told my parents I wanted to redirect my degree program.”

She went through a transitional teaching program at Goshen College and said the change has been the best decision she has ever made. Now a master teacher and in her eighth year of working at Goshen Middle School, Martin enjoys being able to not only help kids learn, but also help teachers improve.

“As a master teacher I help with professional development of other teachers in the school,” she said. “I go into classrooms and watch how teachers work and I support them by helping to work with students.”

Recently selected as a fellow to the inaugural Indiana Teaching Policy Fellowship, Martin will be able to take those leadership skills and apply them to policy decisions that affect the whole state. Teach Plus, a national nonprofit, is funding the fellowship and runs similar fellowships in five other states - California, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Martin said she is really excited to represent the school district as a fellow. She will be working with 19 other participants from around the state.

“They have run this fellowship since 2009, but it had been centralized to teachers just around Indianapolis that were selected for it,” said Martin. “This is the first year where they have chosen various teachers from around the state.”

The goal is to connect state lawmakers with school teachers, who have the experience and knowledge about how certain policies could affect individual classrooms.

“Lawmakers are experts at writing policy, teachers are experts in the class. Really, this brings the two together so that we can share our knowledge and our perspectives,” said Martin. “That way everyone involved can see both sides of the issues and we can make better decisions that will better impact kids.”

Martin says that the year-long fellowship is going to be a big learning experience, both for the teachers involved and for lawmakers.

“As a teacher it can be hard to think of the kids outside your classroom and that is what lawmakers have to do,” she said. “They have constraints that we might not think about and this will help me see their side as well.”

So far Martin has gotten the chance to meet newly-elected State Superintendent of Education Jennifer McCormick and Robert Behning, the chairman of the House’s Education Committee. Martin said they discussed a bill that would develop a teacher mentorship program. Something most of the fellows thought was an idea that would work well in the classroom.

With the federal government expecting state’s to manage more of their educational system, Martin said fellowships like this are going to be needed to create effective policy that works for students.

Martin said that she hadn’t told a lot of her fellow teachers that she had been selected for the fellowship, but that she hopes she can involve their personal stories when she talks with state lawmakers.

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Source: The Elkhart Truth, https://bit.ly/2jg2jxd

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Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com

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