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Hometown Pride: Michael Martin

Hometown Pride features a person each week who helps make the community better.

Michael Martin is the assistant principal and was recently named the Assistant Principal of the Year for the southeast region by the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals (MoASSP).

His wife, Katelyn, works at Nell Holcomb Elementary School. They have a daughter, Stella, and another child on the way.

Why do you think you won the MoASSP award?
I work with amazing people. My leadership — Dr. Lacy, Dr. Link, Dr. Emmendorfer; their philosophy is that every decision we make is going to be centered around what is best for our kids. It’s not just a cliché; it’s something that I really, really believe. We know that is what we want the Jackson school district to be, and they stand by that.

The administrators, the principal I work with and the staff here are all amazing people. This award is a reflection of everyone that I work with. I’m honored I received this award, but I want to share this with everybody who I feel make me better.

What drew you to middle school education?
Honestly, I got a degree in agribusiness before I started teaching. I realized I didn’t really want to pursue that career almost when it was too late. I was so far into my degree that I decided to finish.

Immediately after that I started substitute teaching, and the first call I got at the elementary level was at West Lane. I can remember the first time I was actually in a classroom and their excitement brought something out of me.

From that point on, I started subbing some more and I went back to school. It took me two-and-a-half years to get my second degree in elementary education, and the position that I was offered was here at the middle school in 2002. I took a sixth grade position here and I haven’t looked back since.

What is your role as assistant principal at the middle school?
As an assistant principal, I deal with a lot of the discipline. My role is to make sure that the students understand they’re going to make mistakes, but you have to learn from them. At this level, sometimes there are consequences and sometimes there is not.

But I’m not about the consequences. I’m about making sure they are going to take what they did, own it and learning from their mistakes. I have to make sure these kids understand why they did what they did, and what they can do to make sure they don’t do this again. Every opportunity is a learning opportunity.

Are you from this area? If so, how was growing up here?
I was born and raised in Jackson. I grew up on Strawberry Lane. I had and have great parents that taught me right from wrong. I didn’t always do right, but if I didn’t they made sure that they let me know why.

I did not go to Jackson public schools until ninth grade. I went to Immaculate Conception for eight years. I grew up playing basketball, playing baseball, playing flag football — just a typical kid’s life.

In this job, you really see what you take for granted as a kid. I had two parents who loved me. I knew when I got home I was going to be fed. And I knew that if I had homework, my parents would check to make sure I got my work done. I had that, and some kids now don’t have that. I was very blessed.

I worked on a dairy farm from ninth grade through my first two years in college. I worked for the city of Jackson’s parks department for seven years during the summertime. I’ve had a lot of jobs that make me appreciate the job I have now.

What aspect of your job do you find most rewarding?
The most rewarding part is when you see a kid who may be in my office frequently and there is a transformation of that young man or that young lady over time. When you see them recognize that they need to do some things differently and they make a change. Seeing that evolution of a sixth grader to the time they leave seventh grade, and being able to help set them on the right path as they go to junior high and beyond.

Is there something you would still like to do?
When all is said and done, I would like to write a fiction book. I really would like to do that. Right now it is really hard time-wise, because of my school life and my family life, but that’s a goal of mine.

Maybe it is a middle school book, since this is the age I’m associated with, and will hopefully be associated with when I retire. I’d love to retire saying I was part of the middle school the whole time.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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