North Bend couple has lived a life less ordinary
October 2, 2008 · Updated 5:21 PM
NORTH BEND - James Marshall and Patricia King Martin retired this month from their jobs as teachers at the North Bend Montessori. With a combined total of more than 75 years teaching all over the world, Marshall, as James likes to be called, 67, and Pat, 66, have spent 47 years together teaching kids from the inner-city of Cleveland to Indonesia to Washington.
"Ever since I was born I wanted to be a teacher and I used to line my dolls up when I was a little girl and start teaching them," said Pat, who was the oldest of six kids. "I wanted to be an actress, and I decided you could do that as a teacher."
The two met and fell in love in college in Iowa. Pat took summer school so she could graduate in three years to keep up with Marshall, and they were married in 1958, before their senior year. At the time, Marshall drove a school bus for $75 a month.
"The last two weeks of the month was water and macaroni," he said with a laugh.
After graduating in 1959, Pat earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education and found a job as a kindergarten teacher in the Dayton, Ohio, public school system where Marshall went on to seminary, training to become a Methodist minister.
"When I finished seminary in 1963, instead of going back to Kansas to be a minister, I went to Cleveland and worked in the inner-city ghetto for a year for an interdenominational, very service-oriented project for a group of six churches," said Marshall.
He was then invited to return to Kansas City and start an inner-city project. After a year, Marshall decided that teaching, not preaching, was his calling, and he plunged into work in the inner city and as program director for the Turner House Neighborhood Center in Kansas City. He spent the summer of 1968 working for the Office of Economic Opportunity as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and Great Society programs. Pat taught at the Kealing School in the inner city, and then started teaching at St. Paul's Episcopal Day School, a Montessori, in 1967. Montessori schools are named after Maria Montessori, an Italian physician who devised methods of teaching based on her own observations.
Marshall also began teaching in public schools in Kansas City in 1968 as part of National Teacher's Corps. Both their careers were heavily influenced by the dynamics of the Civil Rights movement, of which they were an active part, and the U. S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. the Board of Education, which began the process of school integration in 1954 and that had strong aftershocks throughout the turbulent '60s.
By this point the Marshalls had two young sons and made the decision to work in private schools so they could afford to send their kids to them. Marshall began working as a kindergarten teacher at Pembroke County Day School in 1971 in the mornings and was a program director at The Learning Exchange, a teachers' center, in the afternoons. Marshall directed teachers' workshops and "hands on" summer graduate courses for teaching students from the nearby University of Kansas.
"We had teachers come in and do workshops on things they were good at in the evening, and [other] teachers would come in from all over the metropolitan area and attend those [workshops] to learn to do something they could take and the next day apply in their classrooms," said Marshall. He also taught "cardboard carpentry" at the Learning Exchange, making play equipment and children's furniture out of recycled paper products.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone by her husband, Pat started a private school in 1972 called Johnathan's Place "in a big old house." Eventually, Marshall left The Learning Exchange to help his wife full time in 1976. With 50 students, Pat, Marshall and one friend taught kindergarten through first grade and administered the school, which was rated the "best managed" school in the Kansas City metropolitan area by a University of Kansas study.
They brought a variety of new and innovative techniques to Johnathan's Place, emphasizing reading, writing and individualized instruction. The school was very successful as it continued to grow and expand throughout the remainder of the 1970s. The Martins continued their association with The Learning Exchange, too, where they were invited to host a demonstration classroom illustrating their unique teaching style.
In 1982, with kids leaving for college and a burgeoning private school, the Martins decided that they wanted a change of scenery and a little adventure. They left Johnathan's Place - which is still alive and well today, though with a different name - and looked for an exciting teaching opportunity.
"I jumped from the age of 19 into having two boys and teaching, and that was my life," said Pat. "I decided, 'OK, hey look, we can go overseas.'"
After a visit to a teacher's fair, they were hired as elementary instructors at the elite Jakarta International School in Indonesia, where they ended up teaching for 11 years. A large and well-equipped institution with more than 2,000 sons and daughters of expatriates, ambassadors and Western entrepreneurs in attendance, the Jakarta International School provided the Martins with an adventure in and of itself. They learned Indonesian and immersed themselves in their work.
"We had a different experience in Jakarta," said Marshall, "Everybody did who taught there, because you had enough money to afford three or four servants, a driver, a cook, a person who cleaned and then a guy who took care of the garden and watched the house at night." Pat said, "We worked like college professors."
In 1987, they were given a paid, one-year sabbatical to return home. Pat completed her master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, while Marshall worked as a reading teacher for Kansas City schools.
They returned to Indonesia and worked for several more years at the Jakarta International School before transferring to another, smaller international school in Yogyakarta, the cultural capitol of Indonesia, in 1993. Pat was the kindergarten through sixth-grade principal, with Marshall being the only other full-time instructor.
With the birth of their grandson Benjamin, the Martins decided it was time to come home in 1996. This time, they moved to the Northwest to be near their family.
After a few years, Pat began looking into how she could get back into teaching, but with a unique twist.
"I looked around and saw this Montessori school that was trying to develop an elementary program," said Pat. "[It had a] really strong kindergarten program, but Sue Wiegel [the director] wanted to go on up, so she looked at what I wanted to do there and [sort of] gave me carte blanche and said 'do whatever you want.'"
For the last five years, Pat has created a unique classroom with her own curriculum and teaching philosophy, with Marshal initially volunteering and helping out with physical education activities and eventually working alongside her as a teacher in 2003. With something new every day, there really isn't a "typical" day with the Martins, who get to school by 8 a.m. and stay until 4 p.m. with only a 15-minute lunch break. They would not have it any other way, though.
The couple has worked tirelessly to reinforce personalized, caring instruction centered on good old-fashioned reading and creative, hands-on science, history and music activities.
"People keep talking about [our] 'work,' and I don't know what they're talking about," said Pat, agreeing with the age-old adage that one never works a day in their life if they love what they do.
She emphasized the need for teachers to recognize that kids are unique.
"One of the problems with our schools is that we just don't see that children aren't just stamped out," she said. "I think it's a problem when kids aren't seen as individuals."
One of their biggest fans, North Bend Montessori mom Jan Calvert, explains why they are so good at what they do.
"Pat and Marshall have taught my boys to love learning, to ask big questions, to expect a lot from themselves,