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New teachers welcome new school year today
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Laura Judkins (from left), J.D. Tyree and Orion Martin are new Martinsville teachers. All said they became teachers because they enjoy working with young people. Judkins will teach special education at Clearview Elementary, Martin will teach special education and coach football at Martinsville High, and Tyree will teach government and world history at MHS. School begins in the city today. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Monday, August 12, 2013

From Bulletin staff reports

Three new teachers in the Martinsville schools are excited about new challenges in the new school year that starts today.

Laura Judkins, who will teach special education at Clearview Early Childhood Center when the city schools reopen today, previously was assistant director of the day care program at First United Methodist Church.

Orion Martin will teach special education at Martinsville High School (MHS) and be its football coach. He worked at his alma mater, Virginia Tech, as an academic coordinator for the football team and then as a graduate assistant football coach.

J.D. Tyree, who will teach government and world history at MHS, helped coach football at Magna Vista High School in Henry County and also has worked at a youth sports camp in New Hampshire.

All three teachers are area natives. Judkins and Tyree are MHS graduates.

“I’ve always loved children,” said Judkins, 40. She and her husband, Jay, have three of their own.

Also, “I had some wonderful teachers and know what a difference they made” in her life, she said.

Judkins, who recovered from childhood cancer, recalled that her teachers frequently came to her house during her illness, “made sure I didn’t get behind” in her classwork and “showed they truly cared” about her.

Also, a lot of her former day care students and their parents have told her that she had positive impacts on their lives.

Those experiences left a lasting impression on her.

Judkins earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Old Dominion University. Still, she said she anticipates teaching will be “a learning process for me” at first.

“I’m very excited” about working in the school system where she was educated, she said, noting that her children also have received a quality education from the city schools.

“Martinsville has a lot to offer” students and their families, including the preschool program at Clearview, she said. “A lot of folks don’t realize it’s there, but it’s an awesome program.”

Judkins said she plans to incorporate a lot of hands-on activities into her lessons because if children have fun when they are learning, “they tend to learn easier.”

One such activity is sign language used to communicate with people with hearing impairments. She has been interested in it for a long time, she said, adding that she is aware of instances in which children have learned sign language before they learned to speak.

Martin, 27, actually will be in his second year of teaching. He spent his first year at Franklin County High School, but the opportunity to be the football coach at MHS “brought me back home to Martinsville,” he said.

He attended the former Fieldale-Collinsville High School and graduated from George Washington High School in Danville, where his father worked.

Martin earned a degree in residential property management from Tech. After he graduated, he spent six months in the National Football League before returning to the university to work in the football program.

After two years working there, Martin began teaching special education in Franklin County because he got tired of being away from home. Those who work for college football teams must travel a lot, he pointed out.

He is working on a master’s degree in special education from Liberty University and expects to complete it next year.

“With no teaching background” but a desire to be a teacher after working in an educational setting, Martin said educators told him that special education was “probably the way to go.”

He emphasized, though, that he “always had a heart for” children with special needs.

Martin said he will be a “co-teacher” at MHS, moving between classrooms to help mainstreamed students who have special needs and could use a helping hand, such as those who need extra time to complete tests or someone to help them understand questions.

He acknowledged that coaches who also teach sometimes are not taken seriously in their efforts to teach.

“I’m a teacher first,” Martin proclaimed, “and I want to do the best job I can in the classroom to educate these young people.”

He said that if he ever has to give up coaching, he will continue to teach.

“I just love being around students,” Martin said, adding that he eventually would like to become a regular classroom teacher.

A former standout athlete in football, basketball and track at MHS, Tyree majored in history at Columbia University in New York City, where he graduated in 2012. He also played football for the university.

He said that graduating from MHS with a 4.1 grade-point average, scoring 1,880 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and being a football player helped him get into Columbia because “they like a well-rounded” student.

After leaving Columbia, Tyree spent a year as a tight-end football coach at Averett University in Danville but often was a substitute teacher at MHS — enough that “it kept the bills paid,” he said, laughing.

“I really enjoyed spending time and working with kids” at the high school, said Tyree, 23.

He recalled that while growing up, he was positively influenced by teachers and coaches and “I wanted to be that type of person for future generations.”

Teaching history and government interests him because he enjoys learning about people, places and events and “if you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to repeat failures from the past,” he said.

Because he is not much older than they are, he thinks he and the students will relate to each other well. But at the same time, he said he has concerns that his students will become too comfortable around him and “not show proper respect for the position” of a teacher.

He will set rules and expect students to follow them, he said.

“Without discipline, everything falls apart,” Tyree added.


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