Associate Professor of Education Margary Martin’s work examines how education policies and practices facilitate or impede the socioemotional development of children and youth.
Margary Martin, an associate professor of education at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s School of Education, says her recently received tenure makes her journey through education fulfilling and provides the opportunity to continue her initiatives within the local community.
“Tenure provides some security and motivated me to think about what larger impact I could make,” she says.
That impact comes from aligning her work in education around educational equity and the social and emotional development of students “grounded in place.” She sees the classroom atmosphere as extending from campus to the local community, giving students an expansive space where they can grow within themselves. This view is at the core of Martin’s values as an educator.
“Ultimately, I see teaching as creating the conditions to best support student learning,” she says. “It is culturally affirming and grounded in place. I try to create conditions where students can play and interrogate ideas and where they can work together to solve problems.”
Commitment and service
Martin explains that her teaching philosophy is concentrated on the fact that students must realize their capabilities and have an ingrained sense of commitment and service. This is a student-centered approach to education with a focus on engagement with the local community. From facilitating mentorships, to helping bridge gaps between campus and community, to conducting long-term studies on how schools can best serve their students, Martin intends to use tenure to help propel both students and the community forward.
“My own work examines how education policies and practices facilitate or impede the socioemotional development of children and youth, as well as their life trajectories,” says Martin about her efforts on community engagement.
Martin believes participating in community-based programs is essential to students’ education.
“Education happens anywhere learning happens, which is everywhere. We learn from our parents, peers, community, and environment,” she says. “What I love about education is that it brings together people from many disciplines to try to address how to support children, youth, adults, to become what they want to be.”
The Hilo Center
Indicative of this perspective on education, Martin is the creator and executive director of the UH Hilo Center for Place-Based Social and Emotional Development (commonly called the Hilo Center), housed in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Based at the UH Hilo campus, the Hilo Center conducts research and evalution, provides professional development and technical assistance to schools and youth programs, and provides direct services to students. Across all these projects, Martin hires current and former students to work alongside her, connecting them to projects that address community needs.
The inaugural service project at the Hilo Center is the Ka Pouhana Mentoring Program, developed by local students for local students to secure a pipeline to college. The program is funded by the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation Oak Fund. Oak Foundation is a non-profit that supports projects around the world that have an impact on social and environmental concerns.
Ka Pouhana is a kamaʻāina, student-led program started in 2022. It pairs incoming students from Hawaiʻi Island with student mentors also from the island and a faculty mentor. The program continues for a student’s first two years at the university to provide any necessary support.
Creating a community of students and faculty, Ka Pouhana strives to strengthen a sense of belonging and wellbeing in students, nurture their leadership development, and spark their interest in being of service to the community.
Out of all her current projects, Martin is most excited about Ka Pouhana because it addresses her core goals and beliefs around education: provides advocacy, cultivates student leadership potentials, and instills a sense of community. She hopes the program will become a model of mentoring practices for future student generations.
Martin also is actively engaged with research.
She is currently beginning a project to determine the long-term impact to the socioemotional development of children and youth in Hawai‘i since the onset of COVID and the extent to which school interventions support or impede their development, an important task when navigating the emerging support needed for students to succeed since the pandemic.
Another evaluation project is supported by the U.S. Department of Education with the Hawai‘i Department of Education (DOE) to provide local students with adequate mental health services after traumatic experiences.
Martin also is working on an evaluation around a Hawai‘i DOE-funded program to recruit and retain school psychologists.
She is also actively involved in evaluating how school and community-based partnerships support students mental health and wellbeing of their students and family. She is currently conducting an evaluation of a multi-partnered initiative called the Resilient Community, Families, and Schools Project, dedicated to socioemotional development in elementary schools.
In terms of future goals regarding her research, Martin hopes to continue those endeavors and conduct deeper case studies on how culture-based mental health initiatives support long-term mental health and well being as part of her longitudinal COVID study.
From classrooms at UH Hilo to the broader community, Associate Professor Martin believes her most significant impact is interconnected within every fraction of her guiding principle, a principle set around a sense of grounding and community.
“I have had some impact in trying to get folks to think critically about the importance of being grounded in place when deciding on interventions for our students, and that beloved learning communities begin with the community,” she says.
“That decision we make about what we ask our students to do is grounded in values, and our values in teaching are our actions, the decisions that we make.”
By Riana Jicha, a double major in administration of justice and political science at UH Hilo.