2001 Carol MacDaniels Teacher of the Year Award

David Martin

Presented to David Martin

Each year since 2000, the Nebraska Writing Project has given this award to a teacher whose career demonstrates our core values: that good teaching can draw better writing from students, that the best teachers of writing are writers themselves, and that teachers are the best teachers of other teachers. Carol MacDaniels, in whose memory this award was endowed, exemplified these values in her own life. The recipient for 2001 is David Martin.

Letter from the director:

It is my pleasure to present the 2001 Nebraska Writing Project Carol MacDaniels Teacher of the Year Award to David Martin. David teaches at Omaha Central High School , where he is "Mr. Writing" in the words of Social Studies Department Chair Carol Hipp. David's contributions to writing education, however, aren't limited to Omaha Central. David also teaches writing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and at the Mari Sandoz Young Writers' Workshop in Chadron, and he is a past president of the Nebraska English/Language Arts Council. In the Nebraska Writing Project network, he is perhaps best known as editor and publisher of Finelines: A Literary Journal for Writers . In all these activities, David exemplifies the traits we honor through this award.

We inaugurated this award last year to help mark the achievement of teachers in the Nebraska Writing Project network. Since its inception in 1978, the Nebraska Writing Project has worked to foster a love of writing throughout our state. For over twenty years, the Nebraska Writing Project has helped teachers immerse themselves in their own writing, share their best teaching of writing with one another, and educate their students and their communities about the importance of writing. Our Teacher of the Year Award is named for Carol MacDaniels, a long time leader in the Nebraska Writing Project. Her work provides a model of the kind of educator we honor—teachers of writing who write themselves, who inspire writing from their students, and who are engaged in public advocacy for teachers' authority in the curriculum.

As a writer, teacher, and advocate, David Martin clearly identifies these same traits. The fourteen nomination letters we received for David attest to his long-standing contributions. Let me share a few of the comments from these letters.

First, about his writing. David Martin is known as a teacher who practices what he preaches. He is an active writer, and for some of his nominators this is an especially important feature of his work. An Omaha administrator writes that David "modeled successful writing through his essays which have been published." Another administrator notes "not only does he encourage writing but he has also been published more than fifteen times." David Martin is clearly a teacher who writes himself, and hence can serve as a model for his students.

This leads me to the second set of comments, about his teaching. Students and colleagues alike rave about David's success and commitment as writing teacher. One student writes, "He is a teacher who makes a student want to write papers, want to read great works of many writers, and makes learning fun. I have seen him give students who could care less about school an interest in writing because he gave them the freedom to put their thoughts on paper without judging them. I still believe he does not sleep because he is always writing, reading or teaching." A teaching colleague echoes these comments: "In comparing assignments with Dave, I discovered I complained about my class size of 28 where he had 34 in his room. It was clear to me that his commitment was to create a remarkable learning experience for every student. He seemed genuinely glad to have them all and viewed each student as an opportunity. Mere mortals like me viewed student #25 and above as an error or as punishment from the administration. Dave so believes in and loves writing that he instructs at Metro Community College in his spare time." In short, students and teachers alike view David Martin as an almost superhuman force for writing.

But the most compelling aspect of the nomination letters addressed David Martin's public advocacy. In his work for teacher organizations in Omaha, for the Young Writers' Workshop, and especially for Finelines , David Martin has moved beyond the walls of his own classroom into our wider state society. In this wider space, he has continued to promote the work of writing in ways that benefit us all. The director of the Mari Sandoz Young Writers' Workshop, for instance, says in her letter: "I believe it is safe to say that the workshop might have floundered had David not supported it by bringing students from Omaha to Chadron to participate. He has helped us even when we did not know if we could pay our teachers for their time and effort. This will be the fifth year for the program, and again he has offered to do what he can to support it." Every one of the nomination letters mentioned Finelines as a reason for their nomination, but perhaps the importance of this publication is best described by the Coordinator for Nebraska Statewide Writing Assessment: "We know that the publishing stage of the writing process can be as meaningful as all the other stages combined, in that publishing can truly motivate the writer to own the outcome of his or her process. But many of us who teach writing are often at a loss to provide opportunities for students to share their writing with real audiences. David has taken this need for a real audience for student writers to heart and has provided a solution. For a number of years he has been the editor and publisher of Finelines , a literary journal for writers, that publishes the work of writers, including students, educators, and others. Four times each year Finelines publishes essays, short fiction, and poetry from as many as 70 writers." Clearly, through Finelines and his other work, David Martin continues to be a public advocate for writing throughout our state.

Let me close with comments from an experienced University of Omaha professor. As a practiced academic, this writer considered his audience and strove to describe the ways David Martin meets the National Writing Project model. "From what I know of the National Writing Project," he writes, "it emphasizes writers' participation and tries to avoid preempting student interest by negative commentary by the writing instructor. David embodies this ideal perfectly. Every student comment I've ever heard about David's instruction has emphasized his nurturing and encouraging relationship to the student writer. Frankly, I don't see how he does it. To work as hard as he does and to remain steadfast in his positive encouragement of students as writers is, in my long experience, truly unique."

David, the Nebraska Writing Project thinks you are unique too. Thank you for your long-time commitment to writing, teaching, and advocacy. Please accept with our gratitude the 2001 Nebraska Writing Project Carol MacDaniels Teacher of the Year Award.

Robert Brooke
Director, NeWP