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When God and Grandma Have Other Plans

Audrey Scott on Thursday, 24 December 2020.

“We have superintendents, school counselors, teachers. We call education ‘The Family Business,’ and I fought being a part of it for years,” says Kristy Martinez, a graduate of the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program’s 17th cohort.

Kristy resolved her family’s vocation would not be hers. She was going to be a lawyer.

But God and Grandma had other plans.

Kristy Martinez and her Grandma“My grandmother, Pelagia Garcia, was always telling me, ‘I’m praying, I’m praying. You're going to become a teacher. You're going to. I know you're a teacher,’” Kristy says. She would indulge her grandmother with a smile.

Years later, when Kristy finally joined “The Family Business” she said, “Okay, Grandma. I'm a teacher!” Grandma paused, smiled, and said, “You should be a principal.”

There were often signs Grandma might be right. Marriage and children caused her to put the law degree on hold. Another nudge came disguised as an opportunity. Kristy says, “A Christian school approached me and asked, ‘Would you be interested in helping?’ And I thought, wow, alright, I’ll give it a shot. I've got two kids and summers off… come to find out, ‘Oh gosh, I really like this!’”

Grandma and God were on their way. Kristy enjoyed teaching, but something was missing. “I was always feeling that call back into Catholic education,” she says. “My parents sacrificed for me to have a Catholic education. Both my parents had to work to be able to afford tuition. I had this understanding of how important it was.”

Years later, when Kristy finally joined “The Family Business” she said, “Okay, Grandma. I'm a teacher!” Grandma paused, smiled, and said, “You should be a principal.”

A move to Texas allowed her to make the shift she’d been called to. “Blessedly, I was able to come back to Catholic schools,“ Kristy says. She was offered a teaching job at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Dallas, and her faith led her there. “I just prayed about it and felt that was really where I was supposed to go. I loved Holy Trinity.”

The first two years were tumultuous, and Kristy wondered at times if she had made a mistake. “It was a hard transition, but I stuck it out,” she said. “You don't just stop because things get difficult.” The nudge this time was to stay—and stay she did.

“Here's the thing we have to remember when we're following a calling or answering God's will,” says Kristy, Just because we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, doesn't mean it's going to be easy. I think it's like anything you're committed to do. We're working with God's children, and we have the immense honor of getting to represent Him to these children every single day.”

In Kristy’s third year at Holy Trinity, Marian Davis was named their new principal. A seemingly casual question from her new leader would prove fortuitous. Maybe Grandma and God had Marian’s ear.

“I remember it was after school, we had just done the carpool and gotten the kids off,” Kristy says. “She walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, there's this information meeting at one of the high schools. It’s about an administrator’s program for Catholic schools. You want to check it out with me?”

The meeting was for the University of Notre Dame’s Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program. Kristy had been thinking about what her future in education might look like, but she was happy teaching. She remembers, “I was listening to all the information thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, do I really want to go back to school again? But it's Notre Dame!

kmartinez headshotThe mother of one of Kristy’s former students and now associate superintendent of the Diocese of Dallas, Dr. Veronica Alonzo (ACE 4, Remick Executive Coach), was at the meeting.

“I encouraged Kristy to apply after watching her work with my son and myself as a parent,” Veronica says. “She had empathy and wanted excellence from everyone, yet recognized that the starting line for each child was different. Within my role, I see firsthand the traits that our exemplary principals possess, and she has all the qualities.”

Leading that meeting was April Garcia, a member of the Remick faculty and a recruiter for the program. April was immediately impressed with Kristy and says, “Her devotion to her faith is evident the moment you interact with her. However, once you learn more about her journey as a Catholic educator, you learn about her deep devotion to her students and her call to become a Catholic school leader.”

“When April starts talking to you, you just really think ‘I can do anything! I can do this,’” said Kristy. With courage in her heart—and encouragement from Veronica, Marion, and her husband, Jose—Kristy decided to apply.

A call came early one morning as she was about to start class. “I never answer the phone in my classroom. Never,” says Kristy. “But this time I made an exception. It was April, and she told me I got in. I was so excited! One of my fifth-grade girls—I can still see her face—asked me if I won the lottery. And I said, ‘I might have!’

"One of my fifth-grade girls—I can still see her face—asked me if I won the lottery. And I said, ‘I might have!'"

Grandma and God were almost there. “It was a great experience,” said Kristy, “I remember from the very first day when they taught us ‘ancora imparo’, I’m always learning: that told me I can still learn and I am going to learn. That is something I always believed in, but a lot of times it's easier for teachers to teach than it is to accept it for ourselves.”

When she entered the Remick program, Kristy was teaching fifth grade, and by her second year in the full-time program, she was also still teaching full-time, but she had also taken on the assistant principal job at Holy Trinity. Upon graduation, Kristy was ready for full-time Catholic school leadership. She is now the first-year principal at Santa Clara of Assisi Catholic Academy in Dallas, a role she accepted, courageously, during a worldwide pandemic.

“She is able to root herself in her faith and be the spiritual leader of her school during a time when everything seems uncertain,” said April.

“Yes, it's hard. Yes, there are tears. There are screams,” Kristy said, “But where else would we want to be then right here with God’s children? Nowhere else. I think my teachers would say the same thing.”

Now, firmly entrenched in the Family Business, Kristy’s kids kid that her Grandmother’s powerful prayer played a big role in her path to Remick and beyond. Kristy laughed and said, “She's up there with God, you know, and He's saying, ‘All right. All right already.’”

This is a calling, and it's a privilege, but it's also a huge responsibility. One of the things that was made clear to me being principal of a Catholic school is also being a faith leader and helping to really bring our faith alive for not just myself and not just for my faculty, but for the entire school,” Kristy says. “It's not just having academic goals—it’s having a faith identity—of who we are as Catholics in Christ.”

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