Education, Featured, Seward Schools

Seward Middle School Nets New Principal

New principal Jenny Martin poses in front of Seward Middle School, Benson Mountain visible with its head in the clouds.
by Kelley Lane for Seward City News-

Seward Middle School’s new principal Jenny Martin hails, most recently, from Texas, but she spent part of her childhood in Alaska. She grew up “everywhere,” as her father was a Baptist Pastor whose calling was small country churches, including one in Anderson, Alaska, located off the George Parks Highway between Denali Park and Fairbanks. Martin got acquainted with living in a small town. The family would take trips to the big city of Fairbanks every few weeks to stock up on groceries and other necessities. While Martin remembers Anderson as a place where the weather was routinely “extreme, with cold and darkness,” it also imprinted Alaska on her mind as somewhere she’d like to return.

Towards that end, Martin and her husband, Shawn, came up to Alaska during spring break of 2016 to delight in the scenery and tour around. During that trip, they stopped by the “Caught in Seward” mural in Seward’s Boat Harbor to snap some photos. The mural depicts a vehicle’s rear view mirror with the image of the B Dock fish rack’s hooks full of fish. Martin decided to search for employment in the education field, somewhere in south central or southeast Alaska, and on the road system. Seward fit that description and, to boot, was somewhere the couple had previously visited and loved. Martin interviewed by phone at her home in Texas in the 9pm hour, due to the time difference, from the camper that was serving as the couple’s home at the time. The family had wanted to downsize from their larger house, and were ready to be mobile when they found the right job fit. They ended up driving that same camper up to Alaska in July, so that they would have a place to live in Seward when they arrived during the peak of Seward’s busy summer season.

Martin and her family members chose t0 make the 9 day journey from Texas to Alaska into a caravan family trip. They left Texas on July 8th, with their family, including her husband’s parents, spread out in three vehicles. They made the first day’s drive the longest, in order to get a good start on the miles. They reached Denver that first night, exhausted, but well underway. Later, they stopped in Yellowstone and spent time exploring, but “everything else was fast, with 14-17 hours of driving each day.”

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Martin is looking forward to settling into life in Seward with her family. She is joined in Seward by her husband, Shawn Martin, who’s been in education for 19 years and came along to support his spouse. Recently Shawn took a Kenai Fjords boat tour on a chilly, wet day and yet he stayed on the outside of the boat most of day because he loved the sights too much to come inside. Three of the couple’s four children will also be living here in Seward. Kayti is 18 and working for the Kenai Fjords Gift Shop. Sarah will be a Sophomore at Seward High School and has been working at Once in a Blue Moose. Their youngest, Connor is 12 and loves being outdoors, hunting, fishing and making trails. He’ll be in the seventh grade this year and amongst Martin’s students at the middle school.

The school year will commence this week, with an anticipated enrollment of 120 students at the middle school. In the week beforehand, Martin and her staff have been preparing for the students’ arrival, in part by developing a collective mission statement and goals. Seward Middle strives to allow for and encourage individual learning. “More than ever we want to delve into [personalized learning]. We are trying to get away from the lecture format,” said Martin. “The high school has a great model.” Whereas Martin’s predecessor was the principal at Moose Pass as well as Seward, the Borough has rearranged the structure so that Martin will serve exclusively at Seward Middle School. The Moose Pass principal position will be filled separately, and that position will also serve the Hope School.

Martin is looking forward to spending winter in Seward, with the abundant opportunities to snowmachine and cross country ski. She also said that she eagerly awaits the chance to “sit in front of a wood burning stove, with my chihuahua in my lap.” School will begin on Tuesday morning at 7:50am, with a day full of orientation and assemblies. The school day will end by its regular time of 2:20pm, with bus service taking students back to their homes around Seward and as far away as Moose Pass.

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