Ultimately, I learned how to be a better teacher and writer through the diversity of great instructors at the U of L.
Grace Martin (BSc ‘14/BEd '16) is a dedicated teacher, published author, loving mother and wellness coach. She enjoys yoga, hiking and golf, which she hopes her children will enjoy as they get a little older. While Grace thrived academically at the University of Lethbridge, she is also grateful for university life's unexpected social side. At the Last Class Bash near the end of the second year, Grace met her husband, a connection that has changed her life completely. "I'm very happily married to my husband Adam," she divulged, "Lethbridge became our first home together. We have a year and a half old boy. His name is Luke, and I'm currently expecting right now and due this June."
Grace is a two-time graduate of the University of Lethbridge. In 2014, she received a biological sciences degree with a sizeable unofficial physics minor and a teaching degree in 2016. Grace now teaches science and physics at Innisfail High School, where she remains steadfast and devoted to her students' wellbeing and continued improvement, even during these difficult times.
As for what interested Grace to become a teacher in the first place, "Teenage years were the hardest and toughest of my life. If I can in any way, make a teenager's life easier, I want to, because I can acknowledge the pain they have been through." She adds that as someone maternal and loving, she found her niche in the high school classroom. "Initially, I was very easygoing, but I became a lot stricter as a gained more teaching skills and confidence. I set a pretty high bar." Grace jokes, "You make sure they can read and tie their shoes. I'll take all the attitude. Send them my way!"
The pandemic has not been easy for students or teachers. Throughout the pandemic, Grace has continued teaching from home. Without a framework for online classes, it was initially a scramble to find ways to adapt to online teaching and learning. “How can I teach these students science if I can’t give them hands-on science?” was one of many tough questions Grace had to answer. For Grace, paring down assignments to make them more manageable for her students and herself while meeting the same outcomes was hugely helpful. “I would always teach my physics twenty students at ten a.m., morning nap time. By the end, Luke would be crying, and I’d be teaching with him on my hip.”
In addition to teaching, Grace has continued to work on her YA fiction novel, "If You Only Knew." Her passion for her students' wellbeing shines through while she explains the initial spark for this novel. "My inspiration for this novel came last spring when we first went online. I was talking to a screen, unsuccessfully trying to get students to interact with me. Attempting to remind them of their self-care and the importance of their mental health, wishing that I could show them how much I understand their struggles and that they are not alone. If every teenager only knew that somebody shared their pain, perhaps they wouldn't be afraid to reach out for help," she explained. "I wanted some way for me to communicate with them and tell them I get it." She adds that high school students deal with many challenging aspects of growing up, but so much of that struggle is unseen.
“I’ve constructed multiple storylines of characters who at first glance seem to be stereotypical,” Grace outlines, and “As the story progresses, layers are peeled back to reveal the underlying issues that each character faces: drugs, sex, alcohol, friendships, relationships, bullying, sexual orientation, grief and loss, self-harm, mental health, suicide, addictions, racism and discrimination. However “normal” everyone seems, each character is suffering.”
With mental health so important to Grace, she expressed, “a bone of contention for me is hearing mental health is important, but not seeing follow-through. Merely normalizing pain and burnout instead of trying to find solutions.” According to Grace, selfcare is “not just a buzzword that means go take a nap or a bubble bath. I feel self-care is a life-altering path to self-discovery that leads to thriving in every aspect of your health and wellness. Self-care encompasses boundaries, confidence, worthiness, and deep healing for physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, and social wellbeing.” Having to work 70 to 90 hours a week through the pandemic, Grace is no stranger to burnout and is motivated to help others recover and refuel their tank. She is currently designing her online wellness course, “Essential Self Care.”
For any student interested in teaching, Grace recounts her first practicum teaching in an elementary school. Although it wasn’t for her, she valued the opportunity and wished other students would as well. “I would advise any student who is in teaching to value and reflect upon all of your practicum experiences. You are getting so much support from the University of Lethbridge. Maintain that support and keep up all of the constructive habits to help you in the future.” She adds that as a new student teacher, “Give yourself the grace to say ‘I am still a student, and I am still learning. That is why I’m a student teacher.’” Grace describes herself as “imaginatively intellectual,” a phrase she has adapted from her creative side. “Writer’s like to turn a phrase,” she laughs and for her, “everybody is creative in their own right.” As Einstein said, you cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree. Grace has shown that she sees the creativity and value in every student and models her teaching after the passionate instructors she leaned on at the U of L.
When asked how the U of L prepared her for her astonishing career, Grace highlights the professors who modelled excellent teaching for her. "You don't get to establish relationships with your professors at larger universities like you can at the U of L," she explains. She credits chemistry instructor Wayne Lippa for showing her "the importance of teaching relationships by being good with his students who felt helpless.” She also appreciated the opportunity to work with biochemistry professor Dr. Ute Kothe and physics professor Dr. Kenneth Vos, "two of the most passionate teachers in their subjects. It was working with Dr. Vos that I decided to study physics, which ultimately led me to become a high school physics teacher." In the Faculty of Education, Grace had nothing but amazing experiences and met fantastic professors. "To this day, I still talk to my professor Greg Ogilvie.”
As a published author, Grace also highlights liberal education professor Dr. Cliff Lobe, who "saw my potential in writing and took me on as an independent study student on rhetoric." This past February, Grace published her first self-help eBook through Amazon Kindle, "My Physics Teacher Said: 10 Ways to Think Smarter and Live Better." She continues writing her children's fantasy novel series "Spirit Rider," which she first published before graduating from the U of L. “I learned how to be a better teacher and writer through the diversity of great instructors at the U of L."