Before he earned his master’s degree in teaching English as a second language from GSE, Rob Martin, EdM ’01, discovered his vocation and love of the profession three decades ago as a young college graduate, volunteering to teach English at a school in rural Kenya. From there, his career unfolded gradually and unexpectedly as he went on to work with government workers in the mountains of Thailand and university students in a South Korean port city.
After graduate school at UB, Martin became a teacher of social studies and English as an additional language at multinational schools, which offer American and international curriculum programs for the children of expatriate and local workers. It’s a global career path that Martin wants other educators to know exists. His journey has led him to live in Mexico, Kuwait, India, and, now, Zambia. He now works at the American International School of Lusaka, where his wife Flor teaches Spanish and their daughter Maya is a sophomore.
“I learned to be a risk-taker. I knew I could do something like this and survive and be successful,” said Martin. “I continue to learn that it is important to look beyond our country and town and city borders. It’s important to learn about the world around us ... Also, I think it allows me to see the U.S. through a different lens.”
He and his family have made a home in seven countries and traveled to sixty more, having adventures like visiting remote islands in India and vacationing on the white sandy beaches of the Indian Ocean. It still surprises him to think of the career that he’s followed for the last 22 years.
I continue to learn that it is important to look beyond our country and town and city borders. It’s important to learn about the world around us.
“I’m living the dream. I have a job I love,” said Martin, speaking by Zoom from his home in Lusaka. “Each day is a new learning experience.”
Since he started teaching, he’s helped students learn to speak and study in English, hiked with a class through the Himalayas and camped with colleagues near the Zambezi River.
“In each experience, I understood … I’m growing as a teacher. I’m learning as a teacher, but you know what? There’s a lot I don’t know. I need to learn,” Martin said. “I need to improve, whether that be just learning how to manage groups of linguistically diverse students, just learning how to deliver an engaging lesson, and learning how to work with colleagues who have different perspectives and don’t speak English as a first language.”
For the last four years, he and his family have lived in a house close enough to walk to the campus that is home to students representing 40 nationalities. As with many schools like this for children of parents working as staff for governments, nonprofits, and international businesses, the American International School of Lusaka’s graduates go on to study at universities all over the world.
“I know it’s hard, but I love working with students who are eager to learn and I found that overseas, the students and the families are very supportive and very eager to learn.”
This year, his teaching includes a ninth-grade “Individuals and Societies” class with 17 ninth-graders who come from the U.S., Zambia, England, Sweden and France. As the semester started, they explored the journey of a t-shirt from the cotton, grown in the fields of Mississippi, to its manufacturer in Bangladesh.
Sharing experiences and knowledge about the world and cultures is one of the more gratifying aspects of his job. “I’m always reminding my students how lucky they are,” Martin said. “They are global citizens and can go anywhere they want.”
As his daughter starts to think about college, he hopes she will consider UB, where he thinks she’d feel at home among its international students. Her childhood of traveling was very different from the one he had, centered in Seneca Falls, New York. “She’s got choices,” said Martin. “Going to the U.S. however, will be like going to a foreign country.”