2023 HCSD Teacher of the Year

2023 HCSD Teacher of the Year

(HARRISON COUNTY, MS) February 27, 2023 – Congratulations to the 2023 Harrison County School District Teacher of the Year – Ms. Toni Lee Martino! She was honored during Monday night's Harrison County School Board meeting.

Ms. Martino is a self-contained special education teacher at West Wortham Elementary & Middle School. She has been in that position for 12 years but has been teaching for a total of 18 years.

Ms. Martino did not always want to be a teacher. In fact, her initial career goal was to be a psychologist. She credits her mother for being her greatest motivator when it comes to working with children. While working in her mother’s daycare at the age of 15, Ms. Martino was drawn to working with children with various needs. During summer breaks, she worked at a shelter for abused and neglected children. The experience fostered her drive to work with children who faced adversities due to social, cognitive, behavioral, and/or emotional deficits.

Ms. Martino began her career in HCSD in 2004 as a behavior facilitator in a Therapeutic Behavior Treatment Classroom. In 2010, she was assigned to West Wortham to help a student in a self-contained classroom. Ms. Martino enjoyed the school environment so much, she asked for the position of teaching a class. Over the last 12 years, she has grown to love her job even more and embrace her role each day.

One of Ms. Martino’s latest projects was the creation of the Wolfpack Shack Café. Every Wednesday morning, teachers at West Wortham are greeted with the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee, breakfast food items, and bright smiles from her students. As they operate the Café, Ms. Martino’s students learn invaluable work experience and social skills, along with building relationships with the staff. The students also gain confidence and friendships while honing skills that can help them through school and when they enter the workforce.

One of the most memorable connections was when Ms. Martino helped a student with a seizure disorder, visual impairment, and cerebral palsy. The student was a Boy Scout who was determined to complete a long hike to become an Eagle Scout. Because of his health condition, the student feared he could not complete the challenge alone. Ms. Martino decided to accompany him on his 20-mile hike, and the student successfully crossed the finish line. Many people from across the Gulfport community joined the West Wortham family in cheering on the team throughout the journey.

Ms. Martino believes that the key to inspiring students to want to learn is to first see the value in them as individuals and to focus on each person’s capabilities.

“In order for students to reach their full potential and find purpose in what you are doing, a teacher must be able to see the full potential and embrace the notion that you can learn just as much from them as they can from you,” said Martino.

Thank you, Ms. Martino, for all you do for our students! We are proud to have you represent HCSD as the District’s Teacher of the Year!

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