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“Be brave. Know that you are exactly where you need to be.” 

“Be brave. Know that you are exactly where you need to be. You belong.” 

These are the values that Aaron Martin embodies, working to ensure that his students understand the power and truth of their meaning.

Aaron is creating his own path by participating in our District’s Grow Our Own program and will complete his certification to become a teacher in May. He has been a behavioral interventionist in our District since 2016.

In 2013, he graduated as a first-generation college student from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in movement and exercise science. Being a first-generation college student was an important milestone in Aaron’s educational journey. 

“I think the biggest thing for me is that it sets the standard for my two sons,” said Aaron. “Raising a family was a lot of the motivation I needed to finish college and be the first one in my family to do it. I definitely struggled and felt out of place coming from a low-income household surrounded by a bunch of affluent peers whose parents went to college.”

After graduating, Aaron began working as a youth counselor at Four Oaks, a shelter that serves children and families across Iowa.

“I felt I had the natural personality of a counselor, so I felt that I was able to relate with kids well and get them through their tough days,” said Aaron.  

Several other nonprofit experiences, such as working in a residential treatment program and as a program coordinator at another youth shelter, gave Aaron the chance to serve others. 

“I was raised not to be a judgemental person,” said Aaron. “I would think about my work at the youth emergency shelters, and I understood [the needs] of the homeless population. I didn't mind making connections with that population of people and getting them help and on their feet.” 

Aaron first started as a behavioral interventionist at Kirkwood Elementary, transitioning into the same role at North Central Junior High in 2021. 

“As a behavioral interventionist, you’re working with at-risk youth, but on a very small scale with very individualized plans and interventions you’re creating to meet student needs,” said Aaron. 

Aaron is currently part of the first cohort of participants in the Grow Our Own program and is one of three support staff-to-teacher graduates this year. 

“I’m really fortunate to be in a program like this and I think that this is something all school districts should do. There’s untapped potential and talent, especially from support staff individuals, and I think they do a good job of recognizing that potential.”  

Nick Proud, Chief Human Resources Officer, is Aaron’s student teaching supervisor and has observed Aaron teaching throughout the semester at Christine Grant Elementary School and Liberty High School. 

“When I think about Aaron, he’s a very reflective educator who wants to do well for kids,” said Nick. “He has a natural rapport with students of all ages and is able to connect with kids really well.” 

After graduation in May, Aaron will hold a degree in K-12 Physical Education/Health with an endorsement in reading. Aaron would like to be a physical education teacher. He is guaranteed a position in our District as part of the completion of our Grow Our Own program. 

“I knew I loved to work with the youth and wanted to impact the youth on a bigger scale. I thought P.E. would be the perfect environment to do that because I like seeing kids acquire those foundational skills that will help them be successful in sports.” 

Outside of school, you can find Aaron with a timer and clipboard in hand as he currently coaches track and field at Liberty High and football and basketball at North Central Junior High. 

While he continues on his path, he will always remember where he came from. 

“I would encourage other first-generation college students by reminding them that they are not alone in the journey,” said Aaron. “I would tell them to not worry about fitting in, and that their journey will be tough but don't allow your circumstances to dictate your future.”