With experience beyond her years, a new teacher goes forth

STE credential graduate Briana Martinez follows in familiar footsteps as she prepares to enter the teaching profession.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
A young woman with glasses and a black SDSU Alumni sweatshirt stands between her sister and her mustachioed father, both wearing blue La Mesa Dale clothing.
Briana Martinez (center) stood with her sister, Viviana Martinez, and their father, Nick.

Briana Martinez is ready to officially enter the family business. Of course, some might say she was born ready.

“I basically grew up in classrooms, so I've seen what it takes to be a teacher,” she said. “As I started thinking about my future during high school, I just couldn't picture myself doing anything else.”

The San Diego State University liberal studies alumna just took the culminating step that will allow her to reach her dream, earning a multiple-subject (elementary) teaching credential from the SDSU School of Teacher Education (STE). 

She does so amid fanfare. At the end of the semester, Martinez was named recipient of the Phil Halfaker Award, bestowed upon the top credential candidate in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District cohort.

"Briana is just a fabulous teacher with an incredible confidence about her,” said STE lecturer and cohort leader Emily Watson. “I saw her one day subbing for a sixth grade class. She was strictly business, no nonsense. She holds them accountable, but is very loving — the warm demander that we encourage teachers to become. 

“She connects well with students, but at the same time commands that level of respect that experienced teachers have.”

There is a good reason for that. 

Martinez not only came up as a student in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, her father Nick Martinez and her older sister Viviana Martinez are teachers there at La Mesa Dale Elementary. Viviana, a 2018 graduate of SDSU, will enter STE’s master’s program this summer.

Family affair

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Briana has cousins, aunts and uncles who are in-service teachers in the Imperial Valley, where her father was raised and where her paternal grandfather worked in schools as a bus driver and janitor.

“I’ve long understood the hard work of being a teacher,” Martinez said. “The going in early, the staying late. But I’ve also seen the reward of it all — seeing kids grow. There are some students who I went to school with who still remember my dad and have good things to say about him. 

“This is a great profession to be in.”

The newest teacher in the family takes after her father’s “firm but fair” style.

“The students know I care and that when I am firm with them it's for a reason,” Martinez said. “I have high expectations for them. I'm also humorous with them — we joke around. But at the end of the day, you're not gonna get away with anything.”

Martinez had other mentors on her journey too. As a student at Helix Charter High School, she was influenced by teacher Eric Ginsberg — also an SDSU lecturer — who runs a program to develop future educators.

As a credential candidate, she thrived as a student teacher in the fifth-grade classroom of guide teacher Jennifer Flores at Highlands Elementary. Martinez even plans to finish out the school year with her classroom even though the requirements of her program are complete.

During her experience in La Mesa Spring Valley, Martinez also got a distinctive assignment — serving as a substitute teacher in her father’s first-grade classroom.

“It was interesting, because they're like ‘Ooh, you're his daughter?” Martinez said. “But they knew my dad and I were kind of the same, teaching-wise.” 

“You can't mess around,” she adds, laughing. “That’s not happening with me.”

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