Samuel Martinez has taught fourth grade at St. Francis de Sales School in Riverside for two years. Previously, he worked as a substitute teacher in the Riverside Unified School District and as a school counseling intern.
As part of our series on Catholic School teachers in the Diocese, Martinez sat down with the BYTE to tell us a little about himself and his life as a teacher at St. Francis de Sales.
BYTE: First of all, has it been an adjustment going from being a substitute teacher to being a full-time teacher?
Martinez: It’s definitely been a little bit of an adjustment, but I would say it’s mostly been a very positive one. It’s nice to know what to expect every day as far as going into a classroom of students rather than just going to a random school and not really knowing what a teacher is going to be leaving you until you get there.
BYTE: Definitely. So as a substitute you taught a variety of grades, correct?
Martinez: Yeah, and as matter of fact, most of the time I was with older students like junior high and high school. That’s where the majority of my experience was when I first started working for the school district, and I thought I was going to become a school counselor. I actually wanted to do that. But I changed my mind over time, because I just felt that working with younger students, I could have more of an impact.
BYTE: What drew you to want to teach in the first place? What drew you to education in general and then to teaching over counseling?
Martinez: Honestly, I just think that teaching is a lot more fun. You can do a lot more hands-on things with the students. Presenting lessons in an interesting way and showing videos, it’s a lot more fun to me than sitting in an office and calling students in every once in a while. Just being able to do group work and interact with students in a variety of ways, I think it’s fun.
BYTE: Yes, that makes total sense. What would you say you enjoy most about teaching?
Martinez: I think my favorite thing about teaching is that I get to have a positive impact on the lives of my students. I don’t really know what goes on at home. But while I have them here, I can try to make sure that they’re having fun and that they’re engaging with adults like me and with their peers in a positive way.
School is important because we teach students things that we want them to learn, but also I think it’s important because as teachers, we want to give our students just a chunk of their day dedicated to being positive and working with others. And I think that’s why I like teaching.
BYTE: What would you say is unique about the younger grades you’re now teaching versus the middle school and high school grades that your experience was in prior to this?
Martinez: Well, I’m teaching fourth grade right now. And I think that’s exactly where I want to be, because fourth graders are young enough to where they still care and you can still have fun and joke around and they enjoy things like silly activities. They’re not old enough to the point that they’ve outgrown these sorts of things. It’s a lot of fun because they genuinely enjoy being in school.
BYTE: When it comes to the faith aspect, how has that experience been teaching at a Catholic school, and is there anything that you do to bring the faith to life in the classroom?
Martinez: See, I was in public school for a while, so I wasn’t really sure how to approach this. So I asked the priest at our school what he thought I should do. And he just said to integrate prayer in as many ways as you can. And I make sure that we pray multiple times a day and I try to make sure that our prayer is purposeful.
So you know, maybe at the beginning of the week, I’ll have students tell me some things that they want to pray for, and at the end of the week, I like to focus our prayer on gratitude. Aside from that we just make time to pray for special events in special ways. For example, this week is anti-bullying week so I found a specific prayer that goes out to people who maybe are feeling bullied or feeling like they haven’t been treated very well. And I think that as a teacher, that’s the best I can do.
BYTE: The last question would be just a little bit about you: do you have a favorite saint or Bible verse that you want to share? And what do you like to do in your free time?
Martinez: I have a St. Christopher medallion that I wear, he protects travelers and that’s something that really stood out to me. It was a gift from my mom for when I went on a trip, so I would have to say St. Christopher for that reason.
And in my spare time, I like to go with my wife to try different kinds of food or travel to different places. We’re pretty big foodies; we tend to plan our trips around, what sort of things we might be able to eat out there, what unique things. Then we take trips around Southern California all the time, like Disneyland or the beach or San Diego. Just little day trips, and that’s what I look forward to on the weekends.
BYTE: Do you have any final thoughts or comments you wanted to add?
Martinez: I just want to say that working for a Catholic school, I feel like I’m part of a bigger community, and I’m having a bigger impact with my students. And I think that speaks to the fact that it’s more like a family, because we’re a faith-based family. We’re a community, and that’s been more important to me than anything.