James Martin '99

Upper School Physics & Engineering. Middle School Robotics.

James graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy (CHA) and started teaching at SCH Academy in 2009.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

It's cliché but it’s this quote from Carl Sagan: “We have arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements—transportation, communications, agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment, and even the key democratic institution of voting—profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that a very small percentage of the planet’s population understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.” 

What attracted you to teach at SCH?

My experience as a student at CHA was very transformative for me; it came at the right time in my childhood and my maturity level to impact me dramatically. I know that our current SCH students are receiving similar growth and maturation, and I am proud to be a part of that. SCH is an excellent institution, exposing its students to the cutting edge of technology, the challenges of the modern world, and the joys of friendship, compassion, and kindness. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching and why?

The relationships that I build with students are of great satisfaction to me. I also get great satisfaction from my colleagues; it is very inspiring to be around such intelligent people all day long. I am constantly challenged to perform outside my comfort zone, and for this I am grateful. 

I’m obsessed with the future; I’d like it to be here, now. I hope for a bright future for the species and the planet, but I believe that future will require tremendous advancement in science and technology. This bright future, with its new technology, new medicines, and new problems, will come from young minds educated in math and science. It will be their curiosities that get explored, their inventions that get funded, and their challenges that get met. I can only hope that I am inspiring my students to be critical thinkers who are aware of the universe around them and the limitless capability of the human species. It gives me satisfaction to know that I am introducing students to the principles of the universe, principles of technology, and the changes that will surely occur in all our futures.

What question has a student asked you that really surprised you or made you think?

Students from all ages want to know about the universe; they want to know about the past, the present, and the future of the universe. They want to know about the human's place in the universe. It's always a fascinating discussion to have because it exposes the participants to so many different perspectives and new ideas. We are forced to realize that while we may be a very small part of the universe, we are an integral part of it; we are quite literally made of "star stuff."

Do you have a favorite teaching story or moment?

2019 in Detroit, MI, on the floor of Ford Field, with 38,000 people watching in the stands, and witnessing the SCH robotics team's World Championship 1-point victory, was truly memorable. The hard work of the past 11 years, all those hours, all those robots, all that pizza, with so many students, it all really coalesced in that one moment. 

Is there some object in your office or on your desk that has special significance to you?

I've made a lot of stringed musical instruments with my engineering students using CNC machines and 3D printers over the past several years: guitars, basses, ukuleles, and violas. I've even made a few for myself. Those are some of my favorite items.


Learn more about Robotics & Engineering at SCH Academy. Hear from Department Chair Peter Randall and see a full list of our upcoming Robotics & Engineering course offerings.

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