Getting to Know Grand Erie is a new weekly feature that puts the spotlight on one of the many Grand Erie staff members working towards the goal of Success for Every Student. The Q&A series brings the staff member into focus by sharing – in their own words – the lessons they’ve learned in leadership, teamwork, and perseverance. Do you know someone who should be featured? Let us know!

Shawn Martin
President, Grand Erie Elementary Teachers' Federation

Getting-to-Know-Shawn-Martin_600px.jpgWhat’s the best part of your job?

The best part of being a local union leader is helping my colleagues. Applying the tools I have to solve problems, helping to create better conditions for others, and offering a reassuring voice in moments of need are the best aspects of my job. One of my favourite expressions is, ‘If service is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you.’

What was your first job, and what did it teach you?

My first job was in a local grocery store back when I was a student at North Park Collegiate in Brantford. For those who lived in this area in the 1980s, you may recall shopping at Calbeck’s. My first job taught me that dynamic friends and a rich social life are key components to a good life.

What motivates you?

The prospect of a much better future for all is what motivates me. Despite everything we’re living through right now, I feel we’ll get through this time with a greater appreciation of the things that matter most.

What’s your favourite thing about working in Grand Erie?

I enjoy how interconnected we are as a staff. Being of service to teachers in every school and working with administration to solve issues are my favourite things. I consider ours a ‘Goldilocks’ school board – not too big and not too small – just the right size.

How does your role contribute to Success for Every Student?

Happy teachers make happy students. Happy students are more likely to be successful. My role is to advocate for elementary contract teachers who work with students in every school and for our members who provide specialized supports. The working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of students. As a union President, I’m called upon daily to assist members who face very challenging circumstances, often the most difficult moments of their career. Reassuring and assisting teachers during the worst of times leads them back to a positive place where they carry on doing what they do best – helping students succeed.

What’s a skill or talent you possess that might surprise people?

I have Reiki practitioner certification.

Best advice you received?

When I was first elected in 2016, I was most worried about not knowing what I needed to know to do the job. The best advice I received was, ‘You don’t know what you know.’ This is so true. We do know more than we think we know. That knowledge often comes to us when we need it. And if it doesn’t, the right answer is, ‘I’ll find out and get back to you.’

Best advice you have given?

My best professional advice is to maintain a balanced approach to work. There are times to move forward quickly, and times to take things more slowly. Burning out doesn’t help anyone, especially the students.

What’s been your most important lesson learned during the pandemic?

For me, the pandemic shows just how much people need connection with others. I believe many are realizing just how healthy it is to connect with others. Good health is more than physical safety. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Prior to our current situation, two of my favourite activities were world travel and attending live opera. They aren’t accessible interests these days, so a sunny afternoon on a river trail lifts my spirits. And if we’re really fortunate, pool openings can begin next month!

Photos by Grand Erie Communications

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