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  Workshop 3: Public Policy & the Federal Budget  
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Workshop 3

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Teacher Perspectives: Her background

Leslie Martin: I came from a family where it was not a question of “if,” it was a question of “where” [she would go to college]. My father thought that girls should be teachers. That way, they can have a little pocket money but be home to support their husbands. I didn’t buy into that argument but I did discover a love of history in my college years. At the same time, I didn’t know what to do with myself. At one point I was going to be a rare book librarian but the popularity of the MBA was also on the rise. I was accepted at Duke University. My plan at the time was to manage nonprofits. I was recruited by Eli Lilly and it was there that I did my first stand-up training. I liked the corporate world for a variety of reasons but I felt like I had done most everything I wanted to do in the corporate world. I managed people. I moved up a little bit. I had a little status but I still held in the back of my mind [that] I needed to give back. I needed to do more and to make change. While I was in the corporate world, my theory was I will make decent money and I will give a lot of it to charity. But I wanted to move to something more hands-on.

At one point I was hired to implement a piece of software. I came home one day and said to my friend, “I love this.” He said, “Well of course you do. You are in charge, and you know more than everybody else.” Years later I began volunteering through the Junior Achievement Program and after a couple of job changes, I went back to the teacher I had worked with and said, “Do you think I will be a good teacher?” and she almost went through the roof. So I applied to graduate school and was accepted. I became a teacher.

I decided to become a civics teacher for several reasons. I love the kids. I love the energy that they bring to the classroom, and I love the curiosity. I also love encouraging them to be curious. I love the unpredictability of what they know and what they don’t know [and] the flexibility that it offers me as a person. I love being able to say, “This is a moment I can use. Maybe I can open their eyes to an experience that they haven’t had before.” When a child comes to me and says, “You know Ms. Martin, I figured out where our taxes go,” that makes it worthwhile. I believe that participation in the government, in your community, is a way of giving back. By teaching, I am giving back but if I can help these students to see how important [it is] for them to give back, to take responsibility for themselves, for their community, and their government, then they truly are full people regardless of their job.


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