Victoria Martin Builds Lasting Relationships as New Madrone Principal


Sofia Rossini, Contributor

In one of the final weeks of school last year, Victoria Martin was out in the quad setting up a graduation ceremony for Madrone High School’s graduating class. She was directing staff about where to set up mics, rearranging chairs, and preparing for her speech about how proud she was of the kids and what they had accomplished.

The dedication I saw that day remained present a few weeks ago when I spoke to her for the first time. She spoke highly of her students and staff, not just of their hard work but also of their character. She described the kids as “disconnected from school,” not as the bad students or bad people stereotypes conceive them to be.

“The worst thing you can be at a big school is a D- student who isn’t a behavior problem,” she explained. She was talking about her own experience in high school too.

“I was a really, really bad student growing up–I don’t know if I was bad, I just didn’t do anything I was supposed to do and I barely graduated,” said Martin.

Though she struggled to be a star student, she never quit reaching above and beyond what people expected of her. Growing up in Riverside in Southern California and raised by her grandparents, they laughed at her when she said she wanted to go to UC Berkeley for college. She pushed herself, and her determination and two years at COM got her into her dream school, and while in grad school for Division 1 athletic coaching, she ultimately decided that wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life. She’d “always wanted to be involved with young people whether it be coaching or teaching,” but going from one to the other was a big adjustment.

Martin spent around eight years working service jobs in the East Bay before she got into teaching. She credits this time to her thick skin and flexibility working with high schoolers. While in a program to become a teacher, she got a call about a possible job in the West Contra Costa school district. It wasn’t more than two weeks after she’d stepped into their district offices that she was on the grounds at El Cerrito High School. Martin worked there as a resource specialist teacher and found that she could make a much larger impact through these smaller classes and programs.

“If you have thirty-eight kids in a class, or you have fifteen kids in a class, the relationship you’re going to be able to establish with those fifteen kids is gonna be much, much more meaningful to those kids than the ones with thirty-eight just based on time, and effort, and energy,” she explained.

This was the main reason she was searching for a job with a continuation school or program as opposed to a traditional school because she found that her impact was much more visible when she could work with students so closely. She emphasizes the importance of these lasting relationships as opposed to larger and less personal classes. “As a special ED teacher, I was basically doing that intervention on a day-to-day basis,” said Martin. “I have kids that I still talk to ten years later that I had their freshman through senior year.”

And two years ago, Martin was moving to Gerstle Park with her wife and two cats and settling straight into the school community. While interviewing for positions, Madrone stood out to her for how closely students were involved in the process. She was pleasantly surprised with how valued their perspectives were.

The day I came to speak with her at Madrone, immediately entering her office, I felt comfortable. She made a joke with the staff at the front desk, offered me a soda water, and pointed me to a chair looking out the windows wrapping around her office. In our relatively brief conversation, she offered me respect and a genuine attitude that both eased and engaged me. It’s no wonder her students make her laugh, that her pride for them seeps through her words. She’s played an important role in building a genuine and tight knit community at Madrone.

“If I didn’t have those adults in my life that believed that I could do it or would take the extra time to deal with me, I would never have made it through,” she said.

Spending any time around the principal or her kids makes it clear how honestly she respects her students. She understands the importance of building that respect and trust because she was once in that position herself. She’s come to San Rafael to be someone to give people the effort they need. To give back and believe in people the same way others believed in her when the odds were against her.