Dr. Michael Martin - Alice Admire Teaching Award Winner
Dr. Michael Martin, professor of history and gender & sexuality studies at Fort Lewis College, is known for many things, such as being one of the few people who won’t show up to campus without a tie (his collection currently stands at 973). Now Dr. Martin will also be known as the 2018-19 Alice Admire Outstanding Teaching Award.
Born in Iowa, Dr. Martin attended the University of Iowa with the intention of becoming a medical doctor. That is until a general education English course taught by a professor who was genuinely passionate about teaching made him rethink his career. The realization came to him as he considered where he was devoting his time.
“So,” he remembers thinking, “this English class is really fascinating and I'm spending more of my homework time on this class than all my pre-med classes combined. What does that mean?”
What that meant was a change of major to English for his undergraduate, then a master’s degree in medieval studies and a Ph.D. in history from Western Michigan University. During a teaching assistantship, the light bulb went on and he made the decision to devote his career to educating.
He’s deeply concerned with getting his students to make connections with the material, which sometimes for students can be tricky with ancient history. He wants his students to be able to answer the question posed by renowned educator José Antonio Bowen: Who gives a damn?
“I ask them, e.g., why do we study ancient Egypt? Why does the state say you have to have a history class and therefore you take my class and we're studying history that's six thousand years old?”
Dr. Martin encourages his students to look at their own lives and the world around them for the answers. Maybe it’s something in a book they’ve read or a movie they’ve seen. He wants them to relate with what they’re learning in his history classes to figure out why they should give a damn.
He also wants to teach them how to question what they see and hear, investigate a source and consider where the data is coming from, and, most importantly, endeavor to understand that issues and events are rarely as simple as they’re sometimes portrayed. Only then is a student prepared to develop their own point of view and defend it.
The Alice Admire Outstanding Teaching Award is proof that Dr. Martin is on the right path. He’s honored by the recognition but is pretty clear that he still has more to learn himself.
“After almost 20 years of teaching,” he says, “I’m getting there.”