Stanton Art Teacher Retiring After 36 Years in Kent
Karl Martin wants to see a strong arts program continue at Kent City Schools
In Stanton Middle School there is a large, open space that serves as the art room. On the walls, Picasso is as well represented as student artwork.
Art teacher Karl Martin will retire at the end of this school year. And when he does, there may be a permanent vacancy.
"We think that they’re going to downsize and not hire another art teacher," he said. "It’s all about saving money these days."
Rather than eat lunch in the cafeteria, Martin’s students do so in his classroom.
"We have a lot of students here at lunchtime," Martin said. "And I kind of like it that way."
He talks about the projects they are working on with excitement. One of his students, whose work will be featured at an art show in collaboration with Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center, holds up a painting Martin instantly compliments.
"Usually you illustrate a poem," he said. "This time, it’s going to be so great that we’ll have to find a poem."
"Oh, hi girls, come on in," he says, inviting more students into the room.
Martin knows the name of each student who enters his class and asks each one how their projects are coming along.
He has been teaching here for six years, "but in Kent, like 36 years," he said. "So a long time."
Martin is far from done with whatever will become of his career once this phase in his life is complete; he wants to continue his education.
"Why would you go back to school?" one of his students asks him.
"I don’t know, I never finished school," Martin replied, telling the student he would like to receive his doctorate in education.
What Martin will miss most are his relationships with the students, who still come and go, to and from the increasingly busy room. Drawing, laughing and playing guitar, they seem to look up to him.
"Even when I retire I’m still your guitar teacher, right?" Martin asks a student, adding, "sorry I missed last week."
"He doesn’t want to teach me guitar," another student jokes.
On a more serious note, though he assumes he’s "preaching to the choir," Martin realizes they are cutting back on arts in schools. It's a saddening fact.
Again, a student interrupts. “To be able to have art class 45 minutes a day, it’s great," he says. "I get to sit here, relax and draw."
At the end of lunchtime the students file out of the art room.
"Have a wonderful …"
"Four days," a student says, completing Martin’s sentence for him.
And even after they leave, Martin discusses the students' work, pulling piles of self-portraits out of desk drawers.
"I think art or drawing is high-level stuff," he said, marveling at the sketches.
Behind him, sunlight breaks through cloud cover characteristic of another April in Kent. Three deer graze in the field just outside.
After Martin retires he might travel, or learn to dance, or work on his own art projects. Or maybe he will volunteer at public schools.
"It’s just one big continuum," he said.