DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – “I know my students, because I was them,” said Winnetka Elementary School teacher Margaret Martinez.
For Martinez, the purple footprints painted on the sidewalk outside the Oak Cliff school are symbolic. Her path took her away, but it also brought the kindergarten teacher full circle.
“It brings it all home for me,” says Martinez as she begins her 5th year as a teacher. “I have some pretty fond memories of it, myself, as a child.”
Martinez is a former Winnetka student, but her teaching duties find her in a sweetly familiar place.
“My mother actually taught in this classroom,” she shares during a break in the day.
All around her, fresh-faced students are eager to see her and continue their studies in person.
And yet, as they look forward, Martinez can’t resist a look back. The whiteboard belongs to her now.
“Originally, when they told me what room I would be getting, I was like Yes! I got it!” she adds with an enthusiastic laugh.
Like most young adults, at one point Ms. Martinez thought that she wanted to get away from the classroom, but then realized that education was in her DNA and that’s a very good thing for her students.
“It just came back to, I saw the students and saw my mother teaching. It just cemented it for me. I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it well,” says Martinez.
It is a passion, she says, that the entire campus shares.
And she believes her strong connections to their community helps her students thrive in the classroom.
“I know your parents, or I know your cousin or I taught your sister or brother. And I remember you when you were a baby. Really being able to have those relationships and experiences,” says Martinez.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has forced teachers and students to show affection from a distance, she says they are still making connections.
“We are doing everything possible, not only to keep them safe but keep their education the number one top priority.”
You could call it a legacy left by the classroom’s prior owner.
“She is very proud. She is one proud mama!” exclaims Martinez. “To have me as her daughter, her youngest daughter, able to teach and give back in the same community that she was able to give back in all those years ago, because it really is a family thing. It’s in my DNA.”