Maxine Martin was one of more than 1,200 new graduates honored on Saturday at CU Denver Fall Commencement 2017. But she was the only one who received her diploma from her own mother, Rebecca Kantor, dean of the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD).
“It’s amazing and emotional,” said Martin, who completed the MA + Teacher Licensure program. “We’re both criers, so I’m sure we’ll be crying at graduation.”
She feels pride both for her own accomplishments in a rigorous academic program and also for those of her mother, who has led SEHD since 2012.
“I’m the one who’s graduating, but I’m so proud of my mom, thinking about what she’s accomplished in her career and how many people she’s helped,” Martin said. “I want to be there for her, too.”
A beginning in business
As a kid, Martin observed her mother’s advancement in the field of education, from classroom teacher in Columbus, Ohio, to college professor at Ohio State University to university administrator at CU Denver. Yet, she didn’t envision herself becoming an educator.
“I always knew deep down I wanted to be a teacher, but I didn’t go that route to begin with,” said Martin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business from CU Boulder in 2011.
After undergrad, she dipped a toe into education, getting a job with the Public Education & Business Coalition and, later, at a higher education tech company. She earned certification as a yoga instructor and began teaching it to kids.
In 2013, she and her best friend went backpacking across Southeast Asia. They visited eight countries in three months, and Martin realized what she wanted to do with her life. She decided to go back to school for teaching, and became what she calls a “classic career changer.”
In fall 2016, she began working toward an urban master’s degree in education at CU Denver.
A degree in education
Martin described her experience at SEHD as “wonderful … and exhausting.” She loved the close-knit cohorts, the “fantastic” professors and the real-world classroom experience.
And she’s grateful for the unique perspective she had as daughter of the dean.
“I got to come into the program with a lens of appreciation and respect for how hard all the faculty work to support students in the program,” she said. “I already had respect and trust for the faculty at CU Denver, so that allowed me to focus on what really mattered, the students and my own learning.”
A future in helping others
With her degree in hand in December, Martin has several months to find a job that’s a good fit for her diverse knowledge and skill set. She’s substitute teaching for Denver Public Schools, teaching yoga classes and trying to get some rest after a year and a half of hard work.
“Getting my master’s in education has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s been so challenging and rewarding, and now, I’m hitting the pause button for a bit, so I can take care of myself and be ready to take care of my students.”
Self-care and mindfulness are concepts that Martin is passionate about teaching to children, too. One day, she wants to combine her business background with her education experience to create an organization that brings meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices to classrooms.
“It’s really exciting to be in such a meaningful career,” she said. “Every day is different, and every day, you leave knowing that you have supported children in their lives.”