A demonstrated commitment to bettering the lives of children and communities across Ontario earned Lee Martin this year’s Faculty of Education Distinguished Graduate Award.
A graduate of Brock University’s Teacher Education program, Martin (BEd ’12) hopes each child he teaches will find a greater love of learning, excitement for school and confidence that they can make a difference in the world.
“Lee’s impact as a teacher can be seen far outside his elementary school classroom,” said Michael Owen, Dean of the Faculty of Education. “We are proud of his work as an educator, a mentor, an instructor, an educational consultant and an advocate for children and youth.”
In and out of the classroom, Martin leads by example. When he saw a need for more technology resources at his school, he founded the charity Computers4Change with the Education Foundation of Niagara.
“It started off with me wanting to make sure that the kids in my classroom had access to all the tools that they needed so that they could express their understanding in ways that were meaningful to them, and so that they could explore the world and learn more about it,” said Martin.
Since its inception, Computers4Change has raised more than $150,000 and supported schools across Canada.
Martin also created Canada’s largest coding conference for children to help students and educators better understand coding and computational thinking. As an instructor in the Faculty of Education, he equips future teachers with a deeper awareness of the importance of designing learning environments that promote modern competencies like collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity.
As a teacher, he fosters these skills by building on his students’ interests and infusing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts into a variety of subjects using real-world examples.
“When you start to realize that it’s not about you — it’s programming for them — that really shapes the way in which you go about exploring things so that it’s meaningful to them,” said Martin, who doesn’t shy away from taking risks to help his students engage in learning.
Some of his best learning experiences with kids and adults have taken place when he is able to learn alongside, and from, his students.
Martin has already been recognized for his dedication to excellence and contributions to Ontario communities. In 2018, he was recognized with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM, which honours outstanding STEM teachers for their role in developing a culture of innovation in Canada. In 2016, the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan (OTIP) and the Ontario Teachers’ Federation recognized Martin with the OTIP Teaching Award for excellence in teaching in the beginning teacher category.
He said being recognized with the Faculty’s Distinguished Graduate Award has been particularly rewarding in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel really honored because I know that, especially in Niagara, there are so many educators that I respect,” said Martin. “So many of the great educators that I have learned from have graduated from Brock and I’ve learned so much from them. To be an alumnus with them and then to receive this recognition is a huge honour.”