A rural high school teacher who draws on his Native American heritage to inspire commitment from his students is this year’s Monsanto Fund Rural Teacher of the Year, an honor awarded by the National Rural Education Association.
Shaun Martin, 31, has taught and coached for eight years at Chinle High School in Chinle, Ariz., which enrolls about 925 students on a Navajo reservation.
As a high school student, Mr. Martin was recruited to run track at Northern Arizona University. After graduating in 2004, he took the teaching position in Chinle. He said in his application for the award that he strives to teach students to turn negative situations into positive ones.
Mr. Martin implemented a distance-running program at Chinle High and at the district’s other six schools. For students in grades 2-12, he uses the club to link distance-running skills to success in the classroom and in life. His cross-country and track teams have won 13 state titles.
He said in his application for the award that many of his school’s students face significant challenges, such as homes without running water or electricity, a trip as far as 45 miles one way to get to school, drug and alcohol abuse, and single-parent families.
A version of this article appeared in the October 10, 2012 edition of Education Week as Rural Educator Award Goes to Ariz. Teacher