The Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City has added a new position of an education director on staff, and a person familiar to academics and the community has taken on the role.
Barb Martin served as principal of North Elementary School for 17 years before she retired after the 2017-18 school year. Martin's retirement didn't last long, though.
"When I retired, I knew I was coming here," she said in her office at the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City on Lafayette Street, where she started working Aug. 1.
Martin's position of education director was made possible by a five-year, federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Center grant — administered by Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — the club received last year.
"This position has always been my dream at the Boys & Girls Club," Executive Director Stephanie Johnson said of having someone on staff exclusively dedicated to developing the academic potential of children.
"She is so seasoned. She comes with this wealth of knowledge and information," Johnson added of Martin, someone she said is able to conduct training for club staff at a level they've never had before.
Martin plans activities for the college-age youth development coordinators at the club to implement so children can find a passion for learning through hands-on activities.
"We could never replace what school is doing," Martin said. She was hesitant to call the after-school activities a continuation of school, but instead a complement.
The activities include fifth-grade students creating playground equipment fit for marbles in an engineering activity; kindergartners and first-graders studying fairy tales; and other students doing age-appropriate activities ranging from playing with shapes to computer coding.
"School isn't the only place you learn things," Martin said.
That's the mentality the club wants to nourish in students — to investigate opportunities everywhere, developing social skills and an ethic of teamwork in the process.
She said the long-term goal of the enrichment activities is not only to help students match grade-level standards, but also to provide specific help for individual students based on needs identified by their classroom teachers at school.
"We have to provide for all first," she said of the work in the meantime to put in place overarching programs.
Johnson added that after Martin works on those general improvements to the club's academic programs this fall, she'll be given children's first academic quarter grades from their schools — grades of individual students at the club are reviewed every quarter, Johnson said — and then Martin can meet with teachers to discuss solutions for specific students who need help.
In addition to her 17 years as a principal with Jefferson City Public Schools, Martin also served as a teacher at Belair Elementary School for 12 years and another year with the Mexico School District 59.
JCPS teachers have been involved in developing activities for the local Boys & Girls Club. The club hired JCPS teachers over the summer, paying a stipend to develop lesson plans.
"That has helped us align it with the curriculum," Martin said.
The club has talked about partnering with the education department at Lincoln University to have students develop lesson plans and carry them out in person, she added.
Johnson added that's also a long-term goal of the position — to be a liaison with LU's education department in addition to local public and private K-12 schools.
"The scope of the potential for this grant is huge," Martin said.
The Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City has also used its $1.5 million 21st Century Community Learning Center grant in the past year to expand to serve students with programs, activities and services at Callaway Hills Elementary School, as well as introduce science, technology, engineering, art and math programming to elementary students the club serves.
Martin has a personal connection between her professional experiences with education on either side of the river.
When she retired from North Elementary School, she said, her staff there signed and gave her a copy of "What Do You Do with a Chance?" written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom. The Boys & Girls Club gave her a copy of the same book signed by the children there upon her arrival.
"Take it, because it might be the start of something incredible," Martin said of chances. She added: "I still get to do what my passion is" — helping children.