Greater than homers and doubles
By Trevor Havard
Edgar Martinez hit .312 lifetime and had more than 300 career home runs and is well loved by the city of Seattle. So much so that he has a street named after him. While his famous double down the left-field line in 1995 is one of the most iconic moments in Seattle sports history, it’s what he’s doing now that is making the biggest difference in people’s lives. In a cruel twist of fate, most of those who remember doing the Edgar chant at Mariner games don’t even know what he’s currently doing.
But WSU graduate Kevin Takisaki sure does.
That’s because Takisaki is a teacher of color, and a recipient of The Martinez Foundation Fellowship.
Over the past seven years, The Martinez Foundation has awarded over $185,000 to Martinez Fellows from WSU.
“The Martinez Foundation is very excited to partner with WSU in a collaborative effort to positively impact the next wave of teacher leaders in our state,” says Ian Adair, The Martinez Foundation executive director. “We are very proud of our Cougar fellows.”
An issue with a solution
After Edgar retired, he and his wife Holli started The Martinez Foundation to tackle one of the most pressing issues in education in Washington state: teacher diversity. Washington has close to 60,000 teachers, and only eight percent of those are from a minority background. In contrast, 40 percent of K-12 students in Washington state are linguistically- or culturally-diverse students. This vast deficiency of minority teachers is directly hindering student learning.
A greater diversity in the teaching pool means a lower drop-out rate for minority students. Research bears this out.
The Martinez Foundation is responding to this critical issue by supporting teachers of color through graduate level scholarships, early career coaching, and continued professional-development training. Their aim is to give every student the chance to have a teacher and role model with whom they can relate and make positive connections, making them more likely to engage and succeed in school and in life.
“The Martinez Foundation is the only organization in the country with a focus on improving teacher diversity and retaining teachers of color in their profession,” says Adair. “We feel Martinez Fellows will make a huge difference in the lives of many underrepresented students throughout Washington state.”
Adair says they are proud to be Washington’s only organization committed to providing this kind of support.
“We believe every student regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status deserves access to an excellent education,” he says. “Our mission is to improve teacher diversity and the retention of teachers of color in Washington state.”
Support when it was needed
This certainly includes Takisaki, who was among the first to receive a Martinez fellowship in 2009 and has seen first-hand the importance of what The Martinez Foundation is doing. He now teaches at Hazen High School in the Renton School District, where about 40 percent of the students are on free- and reduced-lunch programs. He says he notices a special connection he has with many students at the school.
“I’ve noticed that certain students are drawn to me,” he says. “I really connect with those students who are a little bit more rough around the edges, I just understand them. Then I notice those kids are doing their homework in my classes while they typically don’t in other classes.”
The path to becoming a teacher was not easy for Takisaki. He says he would not have been able to afford getting his teaching certificate without the Martinez Fellowship.
“I applied to the WSU Master in Teaching program but I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it,” he says. “I heard about The Martinez Foundation scholarship so I applied for it, and lo and behold, I got it. That was one of the happiest phone calls of my life.”
While Takisaki was ecstatic the Martinez Fellowship would pay for his education, he thought that would be the extent of the foundation’s contribution. However, he would come to find out the fellowship was much more than your average scholarship.
“It was kind of the most surprising thing ever,” he says. “They started having all these workshops, conferences, and retreats. They supported me and all the other fellows with every aspect of teaching all the way through. It honestly felt like a family.”
Takisaki acknowledges that he wouldn’t be anywhere near the teacher he is today without that help.
“At first I struggled with certain areas of teaching. They helped me through so many issues like classroom management, managing stress, teaching techniques, and how to get more involved, honestly anything I was struggling with they were there to help me out.”
Put in a position to make a big impact
Takisaki is now one of the most involved teachers at Hazan High School. He’s an instructional counselor for other teachers at the school, is on the school improvement community, and has been ASB coordinator, a tech specialist, a budget coordinator, and more. He also inspires to become a principal, and was just accepted into the UW Danforth principal program. He has high hopes of becoming a principal to help improve problems in the educational system as a whole from an administrative level.
For now, Takisaki says his favorite part about teaching at his school has to be his students at Hazan high.
“We have such good students there. They honestly seem like they want to take care of each other and that’s really huge for me.”
Takisaki also has one piece of advice for future teachers that may be simpler than one would expect. He says the biggest piece of advice he could give to aspiring future teachers is to just be yourself.
“There’s kind of a typical mold set out for teachers and how they should talk and act. But I think you really connect with students when you be yourself. You can’t help students grow and learn to be themselves if you can’t do that. Be open and willing to change just like you’re expecting from your students, and be yourself.”
The Martinez Foundation
The mission of The Martinez Foundation is to improve teacher diversity and the retention of teachers of color in Washington State. We seek to accomplish this by providing scholarships, coaching, and ongoing professional development. We are the only organization in the country whose mission is to improve teacher diversity and support teachers of color in their profession.
Who they are
When Edgar Martinez retired from Major League Baseball, he and his wife Holli returned to school. What they discovered about the extraordinary power of education started something remarkable.
What they do
The Martinez Foundation grants graduate scholarships and provides support programs to students of color who are pursuing teaching careers and are committed to equity in education and giving back to their communities.
As of December 2015, the Martinez Foundation, as its own organization, has ceased to exist. It has combined with TAF and continues the Martinez Fellows program.