Maple Grove teacher inspires love of the sea

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Oct. 18, 2013 – Todd Martin doesn’t have a shortage of innovative teaching styles when it comes to his work at Maple Grove Senior High.

Martin, a 39-year-old teacher at MGSH for more than 15 years, was recognized for his innovative ways in March when he was nominated as a candidate for 2013 Minnesota Educator of the year.

Martin did not win the award, but the process of looking back on his years of being a teacher was the most rewarding process, he said.

“It was a really good reflection piece for me, looking back on my career as a teacher to this point,” Martin said. “[I reflected on] where I was, where I’m at and where I want to go.”

Martin implemented a new system of testing in his biology and science-related classes that bases grades on levels of understanding and knowledge, he said. Homework points are non-existent, and students are able to work up to different levels of understanding, he said.

“[The award] didn’t mean as much as reflecting on the process,” Martin.

Part of the reflection was Martin’s involvement in the Dive Club at MGSH. Each year, Martin, partnered with Minneapolis company DiveOne MN, takes a group of approximately 10-12 students to the Grand Cayman Islands after teaching them the basics of underwater scuba diving. Students go through the final steps of certification to become lifetime certified underwater divers by means of an open water dive in Grand Cayman.

“Once they’re certified, the rest of the time that’s spent on the trip is continuing to refine their skills and enjoying the sport of scuba diving,” Bill Schmidt, DiveOne MN owner and scuba instructor, said.

Martin has taken five groups to the Grand Cayman Islands to dive and study marine biology, he said.

The first year, Martin was not yet a certified diver, he said. He was learning alongside the students.

“I’ve seen Todd as not just a leader, but as a student, evolve into, what I would say, a world-class comfortable diver,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt and Martin work together to create the trips each year, Martin said.

The students spend eight days in the Grand Cayman Islands, Martin said. They typically complete two dives each day, including a night dive and a dive that explores a shipwreck, he said. Martin usually engages in teaching about topics related to marine biology, such as coral reefs, in the evenings after the dives, he said.

“[Martin’s] dedication to his students and his ability to share experiences and provide continuing education on the trips make the trips very enjoyable and entertaining,” Schmidt said.

‘Opportunity of a lifetime’

Martin formed the dive club to reach out to students who had an interest in marine biology similar to his own, he said.

Brooke Linn graduated from MGSH in 2010 and is pursuing zoology at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

“I’d like to go into marine biology,” Linn said. “Being up in the Midwest…[it’s] hard to do that.”

Linn attended the dive club trip with Martin in 2009, which was the summer before her senior year, she said. This trip played a key role in deciding she wanted to pursue marine biology as a career, she said.

“I’ve always been fascinated with underwater,” Linn said. “[The trip] opened up a whole new range of doors for me.”

Linn returned to Grand Cayman Islands last year as a chaperone and intends on helping next year as well, she said.

She said the students’ experiences are practically straight out of National Geographic, she said.

Students see coral reefs, sea turtles, octopus, numerous fish and even the occasional shark, Martin said.

“We had a shark swim right into our group,” Martin said. “When we got out of the water, kids were screaming and jumping up and down. [Students] were crying they were so happy.”

Martin is happy to provide this experience for students, he said.

“Knowing I put something together that impacted [the students’] lives this much, that’s pretty cool for me,” Martin said.

Looking to the future

Martin wants the dive club to continue to grow and reach more students. Next year, the trip will be extended to Maple Grove, Park Center and Osseo Senior High students, he said.

Classroom and pool sessions to prepare for the trip typically begin in April or May, with the trip following in late June or early July, Martin said.

The trip costs approximately $2,700 and includes everything students will need, he said. The cost includes scuba gear the students get to keep, lifetime dive certification, airfare to Grand Cayman, food and lodging, he said.

“You don’t need to bring an extra dollar with you,” Martin said.

Martin plans to have an informational meeting about the dive club for interested students in either late October or early November.

Down the road, Martin would like to extend the trip to other locations.

“For one week, I get to dive,” Martin said. “I don’t foresee me stopping [the dive club] any time.”

Photo credit: Todd Martin

View this story as published on Murphy News Service.
View this story as published on Press & News.

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