Emma Martin was one of those rare students who was excited about going to school every day.
Everything else may be different now that Martin is on the other side of the desk at The Heritage School, but her enthusiasm remains the same.
“I love everything about it,” said Martin, who returned to her alma mater to teach kindergarten this year. “Being back is even better because I know just about everybody, but even the new teachers have welcomed me. It’s one big, happy family.”
Becoming an educator was not always the plan for Martin, but when she decided to pursue her education degree, there was only one place she wanted to work: The Heritage School.
It was there that her art teacher, David Boyd Jr., first planted the seed that grew into her career in education. Martin said Boyd was one of her favorite teachers, partly because he taught the classes that most interested her.
“I always wanted to do art, or fashion, or interior design,” Martin said. “But one day, Mr. Boyd said, ‘You know, you’d be a great teacher.’”
No one in Martin’s immediate family worked in education – except for one of her brothers-in-law, Nathan Watts, who was her 11th-grade history teacher – but she said Boyd’s comment stuck with her.
“Teaching wasn’t the first thing I wanted to do, but then I didn’t want to do anything else,” Martin said. “If it wasn’t for Mr. Boyd, I probably wouldn’t be a teacher.”
Four years after she graduated from The Heritage School and with her degree from the University of West Georgia in hand, Martin unexpectedly found herself in a legacy kindergarten classroom.
“They usually don’t take first-year teachers,” Martin said. “And there are really never any openings, especially in the lower school, because no one ever leaves.”
But Martin said she had maintained her presence around her alma mater during her college years as a volunteer, substitute teacher and familiar face at school events before she was hired to teach a class of 11 young children and coach varsity cheerleading at The Heritage School.
“I always tried to keep my foot in the door,” she said. “I literally would say yes to anything they asked.”
Still, Martin said she was nervous to begin the job she’d wanted for so long.
“I was worried about the relationships, that I might be talked down to,” she said. “But it was the complete opposite. I walked into orientation and I was welcomed. There have been no challenges, except time management.”
And a career in teaching hasn’t lessened her love for art. Before she left for college, Martin attended an interior design and fashion camp. She also interned with fellow Heritage School alum Mollie Burch, a fashion designer, between her freshman and sophomore years. Martin now works in Burch’s showroom on weekends.
“I love doing art on my own time,” Martin said. “I love that other world, and I still love being a teacher. There are people who depend on you, and there’s really no reason not to get up in the morning.”