Growing up in Humble, Texas, an oil town of just a few thousand people on the outskirts of Houston, Margo Martin learned early on that there were essentially two kinds of people: The haves, and the have nots.
She was a have not, and she knew there was a way out.
“Education,” she said, “was my ticket.”
She wasn’t sure how, but she knew she would go to college one day. She immersed herself in her studies in high school, got involved in the band, the student newspaper, the yearbook club, the science club, anything and everything.
By the time she graduated, she’d earned a full scholarship to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, a two-hour car ride up the freeway. That’s where she decided she was going to be a high school teacher. She just loved the classroom so much.
She got bachelor’s degrees in English and Earth Science, stuck around to get her master’s degree in English, cancelled an overseas trip at the last minute and found herself with a bunch of time on her hands. She’d been looking at grad schools in Florida, so when the opportunity to move to Jacksonville presented itself, she figured why not?
The job market was tough, though, and she had some student loan debt to take care of, so she took some non-academic gigs, working in telemarketing and in a retail sporting goods store, for example.
When it became clear that wasn’t where she was supposed to be, she went back to Texas, where she worked with at-risk kids in a program at the university she’d attended. She taught these kids, tutored them at night and on the weekends, and was absolutely thrilled to be back in a classroom. Which is why, when the community college in Jacksonville called with an offer to teach a single 8 a.m. Monday-Wednesday-Friday Comp 101 class, she hit the road and didn’t look back. She gave Jacksonville a second chance.
That one class led to a couple more, which led to a job in the writing lab and more part-time teaching, which, two and a half years later, led to a full-time faculty job. Martin was in heaven.
Until an administration position enticed her away, and she realized she really liked it, and she was good at it, and she kept moving up the admin hierarchy, and she soon discovered that you could actually do a lot of good this way.
Because that’s what her goal has always been, to change lives.
Along the way, she earned her doctorate degree, remained with her partner, Kathy, for 23 years so far, attended the League for Innovation’s Executive Leadership Institute and other leadership academies, and immersed herself in the community.
She believes she can do a better job as a leader if she leaves the office, so when she arrived at CSN last year as the vice president for academic affairs, she immediately became involved in the community.
She goes to pinning ceremonies and pride parades and student forums and luncheons and art gallery openings, you name it, and she sees it. She sees the difference an education makes, a good education, and she wants to make the education offered at CSN even better than it is.
“I just feel like I’m supposed to be here right now,” she said.
It was an honor when she was asked to become the college’s acting president. She will use the position, as always, to make sure an education is always accessible to those who need it most.