Education Posts

One Student’s Transformation From Handful To Hero

One Student’s Transformation From Handful To Hero

By Dr. Debbie Emery

9 years ago

1 comment



In this video:

(0:45) A-Train
(1:45) The First Day of Class
(3:30) The Beginning of Change
(5:10) Senior Year
(6:30) Post-Graduation

You’ve got ‘em, right? Right now in your school, you’ve got ‘em. It’s that one problem student. They’re a constant disruption in class and your teachers are constantly complaining about them.

Hi there, education heroes! I’m Dr. Debbie Emery, Leadership Process Executive at Flippen Group. Today I want to share with you a talk by the athletic director at Chinle High School in Arizona, and the 2012 Rural Teacher of the Year award winner, Shaun Martin. In this video, Shaun tells us how he set out to transform one of his students from the school’s biggest disruption to the school’s biggest hero.

Antonio, or ‘A-Train,’ was a freshman in high school who had Down syndrome and had been mute since birth. He would constantly disrupt the other students in his classes. The first day he came into Mr. Martin’s weight-lifting class, he wouldn’t shake his hand. He instead went straight in and spent the entire time with his nose in the corner of the room. Weeks later, as the other kids were lifting weights, Mr. Martin showed him how to do a pull-up, but he just put his nose back in the corner. Persistence paid off; at the end of the year and after constant encouragement, A-Train would finally look his coach in the eyes and was able to do seven pull-ups.

Time passed and it was the beginning of his junior year. A-Train came to class and when Mr. Martin stuck out his hand for a high-five, he responded by poking his hand with his index finger! Later in the year, he was poking his hand every day and even doing cling and snatch lifts. He became the class hero, with his classmates constantly encouraging him. On the last day of his junior year, he walked up to Mr. Martin, signed ‘Thank you,’ and actually spoke the word ‘Teacher’!

On the first day of Antonio’s senior year, he surprised Mr. Martin by walking up and shaking his hand. He was able to perform a bunch of big lifts that year and even be social with the other students. When he received his diploma, he exited the stage…singing out loud!

Even though he had graduated, A-Train came back to school the next year, ready to continue lifting in the weight room. Mr. Martin was able to arrange a paid position for him as a teacher’s assistant!

I really hope you enjoyed this transformational story about how Shaun Martin never gave up and changed this student’s life forever. Did you catch the part where the other students were cheering for him, too? That’s the kind of classroom we want all our teachers to have.

If you found this talk helpful, please do us a favor? Click the “Like” button to share it with your friends and also scroll down to the bottom of this post and answer this question: What have you done in your schools to deal with that one problem student, and did it work? Let’s continue the conversation below. We’d love to hear from you!

Take care and I’ll see you soon.

Dr. Debbie Emery

Dr. Debbie Emery is a Leadership Process Executive with Flippen Group and brings her passion for teaching, leading and coaching to our team as a trainer and consultant. Born and raised in Texas, she has served in public education for 30 years, the last seven as an associate superintendent in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, one of the largest districts in the country. As a campus principal and district administrator, she learned firsthand the difference Flippen processes could make for her team, and these experiences continue to help her coach others. She received both a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Houston. She also received a master’s degree in library science from Sam Houston State University, where she taught ‘The Role of the Principal’ to future administrators. Dr. Emery and her husband, Karl, live in Houston, Texas, and enjoy spending time with family and friends and traveling to exciting places. She looks forward to spending time with the students and staff at Emery Elementary in the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, a school named in her honor.

1 response to "One Student’s Transformation From Handful To Hero"

  1. Karen Loftus says:

    Shaun, we in AZ are proud of you, and are thrilled the Arizona School Boards Association has had the opportunity to have you present to our members twice — with standing ovations both times. You and the stories you share are amazing. #LovingOurAZheroes

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