Helping Children Succeed with Adele Martin
Superintendent, Frankenmuth Public Schools
Being responsible for thousands of children’s and young adults education is daunting. Adele Martin, Frankenmuth School Superintendent works hard at it. From maintaining a high standard of education to maintaining the school itself, Adele Martin leads a great team of dedicated educators and community leaders to ensure that Frankenmuth Students get the best without going without.
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Hello everyone. Welcome to the call of leadership podcast. I’m your host, Cliff Duvernois and today, I am joined by really a great community activist, somebody who has done a lot of things for the Frankenmuth community. It’s a pleasure and it is an honor to have her on the podcast today. Adele Martin, welcome to the show.
Adele Martin (00:20):
Oh, thank you. Thank you. It’s good to see you again.
Yes, it’s good to see you. So just for our audience members, just really quick, Adele and I actually graduated high school a few days ago, so,
Adele Martin (00:32):
Just really quick, give us a little bit about your background. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? A little bit about your journey.
Adele Martin (00:39):
Great. So I grew up in Vassar, which is just a little skip away from where we are right now. About five or 10 minutes away on a farm. Played outside in the summer, played in the barn, wrote a go cart in the woods, that sort of thing. And then when I was in about eighth grade, we moved to the river side of Vassar and spent the my high school days ice skating, sledding, riding my bike into town. Just kind of being an outdoors kid.
You graduated from high school and you decided to go into the educational field. What was, what was your thinking behind going into education?
Adele Martin (01:14):
You know, my calling was, I think working with kids, just always trying to improve our life, improve kids’ lives, and they’re such a joy in being with kids. I can’t remember a day in education where I haven’t laughed or enjoyed what I’ve, what I’ve done. And when you’re around kids, and it doesn’t matter now that I’m in a high school setting here, whether it’s with kindergartners, preschoolers, or whether you’re sitting with a group of seniors at lunch, they’re all pretty great, great people and our world is in great hands.
So where did you end up going to college at?
Adele Martin (01:45):
I went right near us, Saginaw Valley State University, studied in education and had a chance to be in all sorts of schools. They made it. They made sure that we were in rural settings, suburban settings in urban settings, lots of experiences. Right from day one, after that, had a principal during my first year of being a teacher, he said to me, I was going to go into early childhood and he stopped me in the hallway and he said, you know, I’m not sure if that’s for you. I really think that that you might be a leader. Um, have you thought about administration? And there’s, there’s people in my life who have spotted things before I saw them. And so I went and learned a little bit about administration and got a degree in it. At that point in time, I came to Franklin with school district and taught fourth grade. And again, there was people in my life who saw things before, before I did. And they pointed me in the direction of, of being a principal at the elementary school here in Frankenmuth. Then again, there was no, again, that happened again. And I became the superintendent here in Frankenmuth.
What was the, what was the decision to come to Frankie with, cause I know you taught at a number of schools before you came to Frankenmuth so what was it that made you decide that I want to, I want to get, I want to get a job, I want to teach at Frankenmuth
Adele Martin (02:57):
I think it was coming home in high school. I worked in Frankenmuth right. You know, at the FID shop here in Frankenmuth. I worked in college at Tiffany’s, I was a waitress. It was just an opportunity to come a little bit closer to home. I worked in Carlton, which is, you’re in Saginaw County, great school district and phenomenal teacher mentors, but just a chance to, to, to, to be at home and, and that was kind of what led to that decision.
And what did you, cause you talked before about, in your choice of word was interesting cause you said calling, right? When we talked about education, the, the superintendent at that time said you should go into administration, start taking classes that way. So you started doing it. What, what made you think that, that this was something that you would want to pursue?
Adele Martin (03:41):
I think it had to do with the challenge. I think it had to do with making the world a better place. I think it has to do with perhaps I have a little bit of ADHD in me and I want to see as much in indu as much as possible with people. I love being in classrooms, the celebrations that take place and I really think that I have the opportunity as an administrator to talk about what’s happening in our classrooms. I think sometimes teachers and educators in schools, they really get a bad rap. We only get a whole lot of press on things that that are not good that are happening and really there is so much to celebrate with what’s happening every single day in classrooms and every single day. Whether it’s the, the time that you go in and kids are first reading Valentine’s and first grade.
Adele Martin (04:27):
That’s awesome. I mean you work so hard as a first grade teacher on reading. It’s about this time of year that it all clicks. You go into a classroom in first grade and as a teacher you sit back and you celebrate because they’re reading and they’re reading on their own and they are getting jokes that they read for the very first time. You cannot describe how amazing that is as a teacher and it’s just as exciting. You know, here at the high school when when kids write a paper and all of the things that you’ve been working on in class, when they all gel together and a student, it clicks and they get it and they get it. I don’t know what it is about that phrase, but when they get it, you know, you go home and you are just satisfied.
Well, it’s not only, it sounds like it’s not only you get to see the fruits of your own labor, but you get to see the fruit, the fruits of the student’s labor as well.
Adele Martin (05:16):
Yes, yes, and to be able to tell their story. I think that’s, that’s where you see, we see in them what they don’t see in themselves yet. That’s pretty cool.
Interesting. It sounds like that’s what would be a Mark of a good educator?
Adele Martin (05:29):
I would hope so. That’s who we try to recruit.
Yes. This is something I have to ask. I actually did some research on this before we did the interview and I was actually shocked when I started taking a look at these statistics out there, so roughly about 80% of educators out there are female, but only 13% of superintendents are female. That threw me for a loop. I was really surprised at that disparity. Why do you think that is?
Adele Martin (05:56):
I noticed that when I was getting my training in superintendency as well. I think the original group we started out with was about 36 people and I would probably say maybe eight or nine of them were women and by the time we ended the class there was about 15 of us left in and maybe just two females. I don’t know if it’s the rigor of the schedule. I’m not sure if it’s the people who are behind the scenes supporting you. I am lucky. I have, I’ve had very supportive mentors. I’ve had. We have a very supportive community that for the people here, it doesn’t matter who you are, it matters how you get the job done. And I couldn’t ask for a better place to be. If we could all be judged on those merits, that would be a pretty amazing, and I think we would grow people. I think we also perhaps underestimate the leadership abilities of, of our females and we really need to look at that early on and we need to start to grow those characteristics. There’s some amazing kids out there.
I know I’m, I’m still to this day continually surprised at just how smart they are and it seems like the younger they are, the smarter they are.
Adele Martin (06:59):
I, I think I was just telling you when we were, before we went on air, our kids are learning curriculum that starts much earlier than you and I had an opportunity to view it for the first time. And not only are they learning it, they’re mastering it. These, these kids are amazing writers. The math that they are expected to accomplish at a much earlier age is incredible. The fact that we want them to be eloquent in how they interact with people, even to the point of being able to speak and advocate for themselves. We have to work on all of those. I don’t like the word soft skills and I would use the essential skills, but there’s a whole lot. It’s no wonder our kids go home tired at the end of the day. Cause we, we’ve, we’ve squeezed every little bit out of them
when we’re talking about the superintendent role. And I have to do this because I remember as a kid it seemed like the only thing the superintendent really did was call snow days. So why don’t you, why don’t you walk us through exactly like what’s, you know, what is the, I know you do a lot, you know, like a handful of the responsibilities that a superintendent is responsible for.
Adele Martin (08:01):
I would, I would probably say, uh, if you would have asked me as a new teacher, I would have probably thought that it was the person who oversees the curriculum and, and how that is implemented in a district. The employees that make it happen and their development, the professional development that goes into place, the ancillary people that go to support the classroom teachers and making sure students are supported and then I think as you have an opportunity to see administration through a different lens, then you also realize it’s the other people that that that make it happen. We really have to think about what does transportation look like? What does food service look like and not only do they get the job done, but do they fit into our mix well and do they help make a, an environment that is, that is better for all people involved, including students.
Adele Martin (08:47):
The other piece that we spend a lot of time on is facilities. What do our facilities look like? What do I have to worry about? Which roof do I have to take care of? You know, we had a 47 year old air conditioner went out in the heart of our high school and we just had to pray that, that we, that we could make it until this summer because you can’t just go in and run to home Depot and get a new air conditioner. There’s a lot of planning that happens behind it. You have to think about the crane that has to come in place and all the rough work and, and it’s, it’s not a small task, you know? And then there’s the whole budget piece. I think expecting someone to understand all of that, it’s a learning curve that takes place. But even more importantly, we have pretty amazing people that teach me how to understand that so that, you know, Adele, I can’t, I can’t just hire 12 brand new teachers because that’s what I want financially. This is what would happen in the district if we did that. But this is what we can do. We’ve got really good people in place. In a small district like Frankenmuth, if you are an administrator, you really have to be the Jack of all trades, which I think is is, I think it’s advantageous to our administrators because they understand more because they have to be responsible for more. They can tell that story
with all those responsibilities that come into place. Why don’t you share with us what, what’s your greatest challenges?
Adele Martin (10:02):
Oh, school funding. It’s always number one. It’s, it’s probably, it keeps me up at night worrying. Frankenmuth is in a really unique spot. At after proposal a, our funding structure was changed. We took a hit financially the recession was hard on our district and you very much want to, you want to keep those cuts or budget things away from kids. But how do you make it look like it has always looked like that’s the biggest challenge.
What is your, cause, I know you said you keep the cuts away from kids. Could you give us an example of something that happened like after this last recession where, where you just had to make a hard choice
Adele Martin (10:39):
as we were. We take white paper and Sharpies and how do we cut $1 million out of the district? I would say that was probably the most gut wrenching piece because then it started to come to names on a piece of paper and whether it was through attrition and people retiring and that helped or whether we just had to eliminate positions in Frankenmuth. We had people who just stepped up to the plate. We’ve got people who’ve got, who wear many hats. They might wear a food service, had a custodial hat and an athletics hat and that’s just how we’ve done it with kids. And they do it with a smile. Uh, they’re amazing. We’ve got a couple of people retiring today, the at the elementary, a secretary and a librarian and they just, they just, they did more, you know, because they want to do what’s right for kids.
And the one thing I did with, with my research in here and just talking to people in general, this school gets a lot of community support. Talk to us a little bit about what, you know, what that’s like?
Adele Martin (11:41):
Oh, it’s the best. If I could bottle this up and hand it to every school district, boy, it would be pretty amazing. Our community, our businesses, they do little things. If track team needs a place to have a spaghetti dinner, there’s a restaurant that’s going to help them. If, if I know of a kid that that needs a winter coat, I can pick up a phone and call. We have a communities and in churches too that, that all rally around our kids. They don’t have to know our kids either. They don’t have to know who the kid is. It’s just the phrase, it’s one of ours and they’re, they’re right there. It is. It is part of the thread. The other piece that I think that happens in our community, you know, we’ve got festivals, lots of festivals. I think that as our kids go through our system, there are so many opportunities to volunteer and be part of their community that that becomes part of the thread that our kids grow up with.
Adele Martin (12:33):
And, and I, I think if I were to guess when they go on to become adults and whether they live back here in Frankenmuth or whether they choose to to go out to other communities and bring this to other communities, there’s this going to be the sense of I need to be part of my community. I need to take care of my community. I need to volunteer in my community, and I think it’s just a, an a wonderful way to grow, to grow up and, and have that as far as us sending our little Franklin with kids out there and and doing good in the world.
I was reading your blog post on the Franklin school website and you actually asked a great question for your blog post at the beginning of the year is E and your, your, it seems like you’re, you’re targeting this question towards the next decade when you said, will our students be ready for new opportunities that the new decade will bring? Tell us about the inspiration behind that question.
Adele Martin (13:25):
I think one of the questions you would ask me was what advice would I give? And this goes along with that. And I think that’s that growth mindset. Are we raising kids with a growth mindset so they’re not stagnant? They’re not. This is how I’ve always done it. I can’t change, you know, cliff, you and I know that how we were raised in what we thought was going to happen when we walked out of college is not reality. Our most successful people have looked at their surroundings and, and been able to be flexible, been able to be adaptable, open to new learning, not, not the fact that, um, I’ve learned it and I’m done, but I’ve learned it and there’s more for me to know. I think that’s probably where, where I’m going with that. I just want, we want kids that they can recognize that their eyes are open and they’re willing and, and I hope excited
because I think we live in a time now and you’ll have to tell me your thoughts on this. We live in a time now where you’re a lifelong learner, always, always long Nordea. There’s no such thing as I got my bachelor’s degree or I got my high school diploma, I can stop. I mean there’s books coming out all the time. There’s new thinking that’s coming out all the time. New technologies, new platforms that are coming out.
Adele Martin (14:31):
I w I would absolutely agree. I mean you can, uh, when I, when I step into professional development, I find that perhaps that the, the teachers plan for us that day might be something, but I walk out with 42 other ideas that I need to consider from that point in time as well. And I think that my hope would be that that’s, that’s what doing with our kids here, that we’re, that we’re preparing them for that.
So dovetailing into my next question, cause I really did read your blog, uh, you did talk about the preparation effort, opportunity process. So talk to us a little bit about how you’re implementing that and what the impact is for students going forward.
Adele Martin (15:13):
I think, you know, it begins in the classroom. We’ve always spent time with, um, professional development with our teachers and making sure that they’re prepared, that they’re there, have this growth mindset as well, but we want our students to be that way. So that that preparation is, do we have activities in place that that gives them opportunity to practice that. Do they have opportunities to fail and learn ways to fix it in and grow from that. There is so much learning that that grows from failure. Brain research behind that is, is amazing. And just I think to remind people that schools and our schools are a good place to, to have that, that failure happen. Um, so we can pick you up and dust you off and go on to the next project.
Yeah. Cause I think that was, that was one of the things that I personally realized when I started my journey back in my thirties was just how afraid of failure I was to the point where I was paralyzed because growing up through high school and into college, your failure was just punished. You know, if you made a mistake, you got an F in class. And I couldn’t face my parents with that. So it was almost got, it was almost super easy. Maybe talk myself out of doing something versus actually pushing forward. So, uh, it talked to us a little bit more about, you know, your philosophy of failure’s okay as long as you let it tell us a little bit more about,
Adele Martin (17:34):
Oh, I, if I failure, you know, I remember being a fourth grade teacher and when we would go over a test and, and I would talk about if, if a kid guessed at something and they got it right, there was minimal learning, but if you got it wrong and we could go through the why and show you the right path, the neuron development that happens in is reinforced because you see the path that’s, that’s probably a very basic classroom level. But then there, it goes back to what you just had to say, the, the fear of it and the paralyzing piece. I think if I could give advice to parents, you know, that’s on my, on my list as well as [inaudible] let kids make oopses let them make mistakes, let them [inaudible] let them have the consequences. It’s okay. This is real safe for those sorts of things to happen.
Adele Martin (18:17):
Even when we get into probably some of our discipline areas of if we don’t have a whole lot of disciplinary or and Frankenmuth we’re pretty lucky. But you know when, when kids, when that happens, you know, let them, let them work through it and don’t come in and save them. Does that make sense? Because there’s a whole lot of good learning that happens and I’m going to tell you from a parent perspective, boy is that hard. It is hard, hard, hard when when your kid is uncomfortable and when your kid is struggling, it’s hard not to go and fix it for them. The message that it sends to kids when we want to swoop in and fix it is, I don’t trust your skills, so I’m going to fix it for you.
Adele Martin (18:57):
And we don’t want that for kids. You know we want a 25 or 30 year old to say, ah, I might not, I might not be perfect at this, but I’m going to take a risk cause I’m, you know, I’m going to be able to do it at some point in time. I didn’t fully realize that until I became a parent and I had to sit in my hands or and not dig in and help the other. The other pieces is I would let parents know, wait, are there phrases that you can give kids to support them in this? One phrase that I would use is I would say, I know other kids who have gone through this, they’ve handled it this way or this way or this way. Which one is the most comfortable for you? Now? My boys, it took them awhile but eventually those talks they, you know, we want kids to be self sufficient in the end. Yeah.
To learn, be able to solve their, their own problems. The, so the next question I was going to ask of course is, you know, just specifically for our listeners, you know, what can parents do? But you know, what can they do to help maximize their child’s education? So you’ve already talked about, you know, don’t be afraid to let your kids fail and work through it. What are two more pieces of advice that you would have?
Adele Martin (20:01):
We touched on the growth mindset. Teach kids that this isn’t the end, this is just the beginning. Be open to learning the open to listening. I would say be open to ideas that are different than your own. I would tell them to [inaudible] work on relationship skills and being able to communicate with others, have differing opinions and that sort of thing. And the number one thing that I would say to any young parent but going all the way through is read, read, read, celebrate vocabulary and the conversation and discussion. I, I think that, I think that that families that, that celebrate that education and that that reading piece especially is crucial for kids. The vocabulary is crucial. We can tell a difference when when kids walk through the door,
no. When you talk about reading,
Adele Martin (20:48):
is it just reading anything? Should they be reading self help books on beating parents? I mean, what would you, you know, would you talk about reading in general? That’s pretty, pretty broad, right? Right, right. No, it’s interesting. I would be satisfied with just reading, but if you want to get to the nitty gritty I would, I would read just a, a plethora of Jarrod. I would, I would say read storybooks and fairytales. How is it going to end question them as, as they’re going through, what do you think about this? Is that the best decision this character is making? But then I would also pick up informational books. You know, if you have a magazine laying around the house, you know, or or sports illustrated, talk about an article that’s in there and discuss it at home. Our boys would argue about the Bleacher report and what the lions were going to be doing and that was part of our discussion.
Adele Martin (21:29):
What was, was that in, in celebrating that and, and what they were doing is they were developing, developing argumentative conversations and you know why somebody would make a decision to do something. And the rationale behind that. The other piece when when you’re in there in the nitty gritty of the reading is the vocabulary. I think we underestimate the power of having a strong vocabulary when you go out into the world and we, and we can tell a difference with, with families that, that celebrate those words and again, just lots of discussion. How was your day? And I’ll tell you what, I got two boys. They come home and they go, good, fine. You know, you have to, you have to pull some teeth in and dig out what was going on in their lives,
you know, for, for the, for the kids that are graduating and going off into the world, real world as young adults from an educator’s perspective, what is, what is something that you would look at to be able to say, we don’t want students going out there like, yeah, these kids are ready. What is it? What is it that you look for?
Adele Martin (22:26):
I think from the school’s perspective, we would want them to have skills in place so they can walk into a college or walk into a job or walk into a trade school and they’re successful, they’re adaptable, they have the ability to dig in when it gets hard. I think that the ability to work in groups and work with others is just really important. The ability to listen to another’s opinion, the ability to take direction from a supervisor, that would be very, very important. I asked these questions a lot. In fact, I had a kid run into me at taco bell I don’t know about right before Christmas. And the first thing he said to me is, I’m doing really well and this is Martin. I said, I didn’t even get a chance to say hi yet, but they do know I’m going to grill them. You know, what are we lacking? Where do we need to, where do we need to beef up our program? And again, I think it goes back to not only is it academics, um, but it’s those essential skills that, that we need to give them opportunities to practice. While they’re here
talking. Before you share with me, before we, before I hit the record button here, you were talking about how you interview the eighth graders coming in and then you turn around and interview the seniors as they’re going out. Yes. Tell us a little bit about your, your philosophy behind that. Why, why are you doing that?
Adele Martin (23:39):
I, I want to know, you kind of want to get into their heads a little bit. Eighth graders, they’re big dogs over at the middle school. They have this perception of what eighth grade is like and they’ve got it all figured out. They’ve got the teachers figured out, they have the programs figured out, but there is a whole lot of anxiety that happens when you know you’re going to be a little dog again. And that’s what I want to poke at just a little bit. Um, what are you nervous about? What do you feel prepared for and how can we help ease that transition? There’s a whole science behind behind wrapping your arms around ninth graders and making sure they’re successful. I think I spoke with you earlier. We’ve got curriculum that we have to have in place and some of it is going to be real challenging for kids.
Adele Martin (24:18):
So making sure that they’re very supportive with that challenging curriculum as well as what the pace of a high school curriculum looks like. The pace is a little bit different. If I can poke at that with a little, a little bit with kids and figure out what they’re nervous about. I come back here and you know, I share with our administrative team as well as our ninth grade team that is wrapping their arms around those guys coming over. The ninth graders are right outside my hallway in Frankenmuth. We have a blending of a great parochial school, some great parochial schools that come into us as well as the elementary kids. And I know coming in probably by name, I would say 75 to 80% of their names. And I think just even me being in the hallway and welcoming them with a smile and chitchatting with them kind of eases their fears a little bit until they get their footing.
Adele Martin (25:04):
My seniors, Oh, I love the seniors. I feel like seniors at the end of the year, they’re ready. They’re ready for the next step. They’re a little bit anxious. I think they love the familiarity of, of where they are here. I ask them questions like, what would you, what advice would you give to kids coming into high school? I ask them, what would you do differently if you were to do something differently? I want to know what strengths we have and they, that’s where they really shine. I think that they, they talk about teachers and in all of this it’s so interesting because it’s so relationship based and this isn’t what our government or the Michigan department of education or all the assessments that kids have to do. They don’t talk about taking tests, but they talk about relationship, things that have happened to them here and how important it’s been.
Adele Martin (25:51):
teachers who stayed after school with them or somebody that helped them learn something they didn’t understand or how welcome and appreciated they felt. When I do my opening day speech with all of the whole district, those are the things I talk about. The kids talk about the lunch ladies greeting them, their bus driver over the course of 13 years, they talk about somebody in kindergarten and what it felt like to be a new student. I ask them what it’s like to be a new student who have you, you know, I know our new students, um, are they, they are kids. Nice. And then I ask them, because I’m really curious, would you come back to Frankenmuth? You know, when you’re growing up and, and kids are funny because you know, we’re kind of a small little place here and they want to go out and they want to be part of the world and they giggle and they get this little side look back and forth.
Adele Martin (26:36):
But I think one kid summed it up the best. He said, you know, who wouldn’t want this for? Their family said, you know, we had a community that, that took good care of us and we had teachers that cared and we had safety nets in place and, and this was a great place to be. Mrs. Martin. I mean, I just, I got chills when I heard that. That’s exactly what we want. Nice. Yeah. They’re good kids. They’re good kids. And they tell me, they tell me exactly, you know, things that bug them. You know, can we have chicken tenders more often? Cause you know, once a month is not enough, you know, things like that. They worry about snow days. They bug me about snow days. So yes. Yeah. Yes. They come right out and ask me before we wrap up, if anybody’s listening to this interview and you know, they want to reach out with you or connect you, connect with you online, you know, if the school website, whatever it is, what, what would be, what would be the best way for them to do that? They can connect it through my email and it’s .
Adele, this has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for your time. I know you’re extremely busy, but thank you so much.
Oh, I loved having you here. Thank you so much.
About The Host
About The Host
Cliff is the host of “The Call of Leadership” podcast. He has published over 500 short stories over Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn. He is a passionate lifelong learner, marketer and philanthropist. He currently lives in Reese, Michigan with his fiancé Sherry and her two children.