American Government and Modern European History teacher Diane Martinelli will be retiring at the close of the 2016 school year, bringing an end to her educational career, which began at M-A in 1993.
When Martinelli was 28, she quit her job as a secretary and decided to go back to school while taking care of her children. She became a full-time college student as her youngest child entered first grade. Martinelli began her college career at Skyline and ultimately graduated from San Francisco State University.
Martinelli first found her passion for teaching when a neighboring teenager needed help with a history class. “I was tutoring her and she brought some friends along,” said Martinelli. “I really enjoyed being with them, and so I realized that I should teach.” When she came to M-A, Martinelli had an ingrained love for history, and originally wanted to teach United States History. However, she taught Government as a student teacher and realized that she loved it even more. Martinelli later added Modern European History to her course set, but never had Advanced Placement (AP) classes in her trajectory. “When I started teaching, I never set out to teach AP — I was never an AP student — I wanted to teach those kids…who hate history. That’s where I wanted to be. And sophomores, that’s prime, especially in Modern European History.” One of the benefits of Modern European History is that the class is two semesters long. Martinelli said that she would have enjoyed extending the current one semester Government program to a yearlong course.
Martinelli reflected on her favorite part of teaching: “Without a doubt [it is] the kids. I love working with teenagers. That is truly one of the things that I am concerned about when I am retired. I’m going to miss the kids terribly.” She looked forward to each new group of students that took her classes. “Every year I get a new crop, and it’s exciting all over again.” Helping her students become interested in the topics at hand was always a priority. “I always wanted to turn kids on to the subjects I was passionate about. I hope my students, even if they didn’t like me, at least they enjoyed the passion.”
This drive to ensure her students were learning and working at their full potential constituted a key component of Martinelli’s teaching style: differentiation.“You give the same assignment to everyone and you don’t grade everybody’s the same, necessarily. For example, if I had a student who would be in AP European History and they are in a class with an English language learner, and everybody does four pages, I have higher expectations of the person that has got the skills. But if the English language learner has bad grammar, but I can figure out that they are learning something and they can relay that, I’m going to give full credit.” One of Martinelli’s sayings is as follows: “Good enough, isn’t.” The one piece of advice she would give to a high school student is: “You are better than [just putting in the minimum effort]. Work hard.” And to those leaving M-A alongside her this year she advised, “You do not have to determine the path for your entire life right now. If you don’t know that’s okay. College could be…like a buffet — take a little taste of everything and then decide what you want to do. But find a passion.”
The ability to make Government a signature feature of senior year was one of Martinelli’s favorite parts about teaching at M-A. “Being part of the fabric of the school and putting down roots, by the time seniors get to my class they know what to expect. They know that there is going to be a paper and that it is going to be a fairly challenging course.” The hardest part of her job, however, was dealing with second semester seniors. “I wish I could say that there was a semester that no one failed my class, but in all the years there has always been.”
In her retirement, Martinelli plans to spend more time with her family and her dogs. She is looking forward to working in the garden and cooking more. “I cook from scratch which means I make my own pasta. Last summer we made 600 ravioli.” She is also happy to have more time to read and explore new things. “I don’t know what my next passion is, but I know it’s out there. But you know what else… if anybody ever goes to the polls and they see the old people working there, that’s going to be me.”
When asked about some standout moments in her career, Martinelli explained that there have been too many to name specifically. From chaperoning Washington D.C. trips to witnessing the hijinks of her students, from fostering a vibrant lunchtime community in her classroom to seeing former students accomplishing great things with their lives, Martinelli looks back with both a fondness towards the M-A community, and a melancholy feeling for leaving. However, for her the time was right, and she finally signed the papers necessary to retire in early May. Summing up her experience at M-A, she reflected, “It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve loved every minute of it.”