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Science teacher says goodbye to Holyoke JH PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

“I’ve been here such a long time, and then I look back and think, ‘I just got here!’” Completing his 21st year of teaching, there must have been some sort of chemistry between science teacher Martin Roth and Holyoke Junior High School when he came in 1990.

Originally thinking he could be a high school teacher, he interviewed in Holyoke and Jim Yakel offered him a job teaching seventh- and eighth-graders. “As it turned out I got junior high kids, and I thought, ‘Oh no!’” said Roth.

This new teacher, fresh out of college, ended up enjoying the pace of junior high, a time where students really get a start in the foundation of science.

“That age is entertaining,” he said with a laugh. “It keeps me young at heart.”

Cleaning out his classroom in the next couple of weeks will be bittersweet for Roth who is retiring after a 21-year teaching career at Holyoke Junior High.

Retiring junior high science teacher Martin Roth poses next to his famous classroom props while
sporting his old Dragon track coach hat—all things that have made his 21-year teaching career in
Holyoke one to remember.             —Enterprise photo

The first year Roth called Holyoke home was a time of big changes for him. A new career, new town and new wife all made life interesting.

Roth came to Holyoke with his new bride Laura and two new stepsons Ian and Conor.

“Ever since then it’s been pretty laid back,” he said, noting the years before he decided to become a teacher were very “adventurous,” to say the least.

After high school Roth completed a couple years of college at Colorado State University. He then did several odd jobs and some part-time jobs while he took classes part time.

His microbiology professor landed him a job in the lab at the university, and eventually Roth earned his degree in agronomy.

Refusing to settle down, Roth had various jobs including construction, an internship in Holyoke with Great Western Sugar Company and work with the Forest Service in South Dakota and Wyoming.

When his friends and family began telling him he needed to get a “real job,” he signed up for education classes at the University of Colorado in Denver.

Roth actually comes from a family of teachers, including his father and two brothers.

Since he already had a science-oriented degree, the concept of being a science teacher just clicked.

Roth’s first and only teaching job started 21 years ago at the former Holyoke Junior High in the northwest wing of the elementary school.

Every year since, this science teacher has been preparing lesson plans, grading papers and conducting experiments, including the memorable frog dissection.

Another of his favorite projects included the integrated units where science, math, English and social studies all worked together on one large venture.

Students probably still remember the day Roth set off his stink bombs, and this science teacher isn’t sure if co-worker Nancy Kennedy has ever gotten over the day she came across the escaped snakes from the science room aquarium.

“The concepts of science are still the same—always have been, always will be,” said Roth, contemplating how his teaching job has changed in the last 21 years. “I’m your basic blackboard/overhead teacher still.”

He went on to say the Holyoke School District is in the midst of big changes, implementing much more technology into the classrooms.

Once someone told Roth he is an immigrant as far as technology is concerned—he’s not a digital native.

While Roth might struggle with all those newfangled tech gadgets, he still sees the value in it.

He said fewer students are competitive in the classroom right now, and the school needs to get kids more involved in accountability. It’s easier said than done, he noted, but new ideas and new technology is what will get the students more involved.

In addition to his time in the science room, Roth has been a coach for football, track and basketball. One of his favorite memories is going to the 1996 state tournament as part of the high school boys’ basketball coaching team.

“Teaching has been the toughest and most stressful job I’ve had,” said Roth, so he’s excited to sit back and relax for a while.

He said he’ll have to create some new hobbies, including doing more reading for enjoyment, especially since his wife happens to be the librarian! Of course, he’ll still make plenty of time to keep up his fantasy sports teams.

A teacher at heart, Roth won’t be able to stay away from the school for long. He’s agreed to be the eight-week substitute for high school science teacher Ashley Clayton when she goes on maternity leave this fall. He’s also thinking about being a substitute bus driver, depending on what else might pop up around town.

Roth’s daughter Nora Ann is now in college, so things might be fairly quiet around the house, but Roth will surely soak up the much-deserved break. After 21 years in Holyoke Junior High, this science teacher has earned some time off!