Cara Martin, a gifted education teacher at Wolf Springs Elementary in the Blue Valley School District, was honored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and Sporting KC as the first Blue KC Sporting Samaritan for the month of August on Saturday at Children's Mercy Park.
“Cara Martin is making an incredible difference through her work at Wolf Springs Elementary by helping kids to dream big dreams and learn how to achieve them,” said Christina Lively, Department Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Blue KC. “Her work is making learning fun for current students and will help create high-achieving citizens for the future."
Serving in the Blue Valley District for the past 16 years, Martin has built a reputation for helping students embrace their natural curiosity, set goals and dream big dreams.
“Kids arrive with the wonder, and it’s my job to provide them with experiences to help them find context for their curiosity,” said Martin. “Kids have a natural knack for observing, questioning and connecting. It seems that somewhere along the way, many of us adults lose that. I want my students to understand the power of curiosity, the power of risk-taking, the power of failure, and the power of perseverance. All of these inevitably drive success.”
Martin’s hope for all of her students is that they become lifelong learners and dream big. But not just that they dream, but that they also work to achieve them. One way Martin helps her students develop into dreamers and doers is through providing them with real-world STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and STEAM (addition of Arts) experiences to help them gain real-world skills and begin to envision what is possible for them in the future.
“Math matters more when they’re designing a library floor plan with real architects than it does when solving problems on a worksheet,” said Martin. “Science comes alive when they get to design their own experiment in a collegiate chemistry lab instead of carrying out one typed in a book. There is an unmistakable energy when every student and teacher in the school along with parent and community volunteers are participating in a building-wide STEAM Day. It makes kids pumped to come to school.”
Beyond her gifted classroom, Martin holds influence over the entire educational direction of Wolf Springs Elementary. As part of the vision team who helped open the school three years ago, she and the planning team dreamed about what they wanted for the school and its students and were able to put the necessary pieces in place to offer the desired experience.
“Our team imagined what school could be and started building the kind of culture to support that,” said Martin. “What would have made our own elementary educations extraordinary? We wanted to offer that for our students. We wanted to cultivate the whole child—social and emotional learning in addition to academics—so we intentionally designed ways to build our community throughout the school day. We wanted to authentically engage our amazing community, so we implemented professional immersion cohorts across a variety of STEM fields. It continues to be a lot of critique, revision, and reflection, but I am truly proud of what WSE has accomplished as a school community in its first two years.”
For her positive impact on her students and the community, Martin was nominated twice as a Blue KC Sporting Samaritan, including one nomination from Wolf Springs Principal Gretchen Anderson and another from WSE volunteer David Spieker, who has assisted Martin with a number of STEM projects.
“Cara truly exemplifies the characteristics of a Blue KC Sporting Samaritan,” said Anderson. “At heart, Cara believes in the power of educating students to best prepare them for their future. She works relentlessly, spending countless hours outside of the classroom to provide students with experiences that will help them flourish and grow, build confidence, spark their creativity and inspire a love of learning. In short, Cara makes a difference and has positively impacted many people.”
“Exceptional teaching and organizational skills are required to use the classroom as a laboratory,” added Spieker in reference to Martin’s ability to carry out highly beneficial STEM experiences. “For deliberately making the tremendous commitment to provide challenging STEM projects for her students—an undertaking which required her to continuously go above and beyond to ensure their success—Ms. Martin is highly deserving to be honored as a Blue KC Sporting Samaritan.”
With Blue KC Sporting Samaritans being honored monthly at Children’s Mercy Park during Sporting home games, fans are encouraged to nominate students and teachers like Martin who are making a positive impact on their schools and in their communities. To nominate, visit https://www.sportingkc.com/bluekc.