Meet Marty

Martha Marker_Wise Woman.jpg

Marty Marker is my neighborhood name.  My professional name is Martha Rapp Ruddell, and before that Martha Rapp Haggard.  I chose to use Marty Marker when I first joined social media to separate my personal and professional lives because that felt comfortable for me. Also, my husband and I live in a small coastal community where we are known as The Markers, and that too is comfortable for me.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Kansas City, Missouri; my family moved to nearby Independence, Missouri when I was in third grade.

How old are you?
Today is my 77th birthday.

Where did you go to college? Were you the first woman in your family to go to college?
I got pregnant when I was a junior in high school but I resisted the norms of the day either to quit high school, marry one’s boyfriend and become a housewife or to disappear for six months and return home unencumbered by a child after a long visit with one’s “aunt”. I did marry my boyfriend (a marriage that was short-lived) but, after giving birth in the fall semester of my senior year—I was 17—I returned to high school (against my husband’s wishes) and graduated with my class.  By the time I was 19 I was a single parent working in the accounting department at American Telephone  and Telegraph Company. I then subsequently started college when I was 21 (with a new husband and 4 year old son). 

I got my B.S. degree at the University of Central Missouri, my M.A. at Truman State University, and my Ph.D. at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

I was not the first woman in my family to go to college but I was the first woman to graduate. 

What did you study?
I got my undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with a minor in English. In the course of my teaching career in middle schools, junior high and senior high schools, I earned my Masters Degree in Reading Education. Then in my seventh year of teaching I began a doctoral program and completed a Ph.D. in Reading Education and Social Psychology.

Tell us about your career
I had a two-phase career. The first began when I was 25.  I taught for nine years in grades 6-12. I taught language arts in 6th and 7th grades and English in grades 9-11. I was a reading teacher one year in a junior high and another year at a senior high school.

After completing my Ph.D. at the age of 35, I was ready to launch the second phase of my career as a university professor/academic, which I continued for 28 years. At university I taught teacher education courses for students preparing to be elementary and secondary teachers and supervised many, many student teachers.  I also taught Masters and doctoral classes in reading practice, reading theory and research, and educational research design. I served on numerous M.A. and doctoral thesis/dissertation committees and as part of my job routinely counseled students coming through our credential and degree programs.

I loved teaching and mentoring students in both phases of my career.  I really, really liked my students, whether they were awkward 7th graders, persona non grata in other classrooms, or adults working valiantly to juggle teaching full time, maintaining family schedules, and doing their own challenging coursework to finish their degree.  I always wanted to be a model of good teaching and a willing listener and mentor when needed. So I convinced an angry 18-year-old to study with me in my home so she could pass her last two senior classes and graduate from high school. I counseled a doctoral student regarding personal  decisions she might need to make at professional meetings. And I steered a talented M.A. student into a Ph.D. program so he could advance to the career he really wanted. In 1998 I received the Exemplary Educator (Teacher of the Year) Award for my university teaching by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce

I was an eager and active academic.   I published over 50 articles and presented over 150 peer-reviewed papers at state, national and international professional meetings. I wrote five editions of my college text Teaching Content Reading and Writing, co-wrote the first edition of an elementary reading text, and co-edited the 5th edition of Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading, a must-read in literacy/reading doctoral programs in my field at that time. I was inducted into the California Reading Association Reading Hall of Fame. In 1997-98 I served as President of the Literacy Research Association, the preeminent reading research organization that I had joined as a doctoral student, and later received the Distinguished Service Award from that organization.

In the last ten years at the university I began moving into to university governance and administrative roles. I was Chair of the Faculty and Academic Senate, Coordinator of a number of credential and degree programs, Chair of the Department of Education, and in my final year, Interim Dean of the School of Education.

Was there ever a time you felt challenged by a double standard as a woman?
Many times.  Here are two of them, both of which also affected my income. (1) When I first joined my last university position I brought four years of previous university teaching to it and expected I would be hired a step or two up the Assistant Professor salary scale because of that. But I was not. I was hired at the bottom level. A number of years later I learned that the university routinely placed men with prior service three steps up on the salary scale and routinely did not do so for women, a discriminatory practice that was pretty universal throughout the U.S. at that time..  (2) When I was asked to become Interim Dean of the School of Education I was offered a very small salary increment from what I was already making as a Full Professor, even with the expectation that I was to lead the effort to obtain national accreditation for our School for the first time in its history and renewal of all of our state accreditation for our credential programs. In my negotiations with the Vice President he said he couldn’t possibly pay an Interim Dean a higher salary than the lowest Dean’s salary, so he upped my salary to just under that amount. I later discovered that the other Interim Dean that year, a male, was receiving a salary $20,000 higher than mine (and $19,000 higher than the female Dean’s whose salary was so “sacrosanct”).

Did you have any female mentors that inspired you early in your career?
Yes, from the very first day of my teaching career. When I graduated college I was hired to teach language arts in a program for 6th grade intended to provide a transition for students from grade school to junior high. We would have three teachers in three adjacent classrooms, and the students would spend one-third of each day in each of our classrooms for language arts/math and science/social studies and art. The district was building a new wing on the school building expressly for this program. Unfortunately, a construction strike over the summer meant that the new wing was not ready at the beginning of the school year. So. The first month of my first year of teaching all three “classrooms” were housed in the multi-purpose room divided by portable bulletin boards. My class was in the middle. You can imagine the sounds of 75 sixth-graders and three teachers ricocheting off the walls of this cavernous room (with jackhammers drilling outside the windows!). It was not the most propitious beginning of anyone’s teaching career. BUT those two teachers, one on either side of me, were two of the finest teachers I’ve ever met, before or since. While I felt well prepared to be a first year teacher, from them I learned the nuances: I learned how to get kids in line quietly and efficiently; I learned how to de-escalate potential problems; I learned when and how to laugh with the kids and, alternately, signal that it was time for quiet.  And it didn’t end there. We spent hours together talking and strategizing about our program and kids. In short, they passed on to me the wisdom they’d gained in all of  their years of teaching.

Years later when I walked in to my first university position I met the mentor of my life. She stood tall in her high heels, with a deep voice and a laugh that went from her belly to her eyes. She taught me so much: how to chair a meeting; how to counsel adult students; how to do dynamic, exciting inservice education with teachers (what she would call “barnburners”); and how to have a sense of humor and proportion about everything.  We quickly became fast friends (as so many mentors and mentees do) as I learned from her, grew into my new profession and established the teaching patterns that marked the rest of my career.  She was my North Star in those early years and a friend for life.

What inspires you to mentor others?
First and foremost is all the mentoring I received from others, and they were many. I’ve mentioned three, but I did not get from being a 17 year old oh-so-young mother to a 35 year old with a Ph.D. alone. Nor was I alone throughout my career. My family, my friends and professional colleagues—in short, my Tribe— were all there with me offering support and mentoring me through good times and bad.

Important too was my realization early on in my university career that I was an anomaly: I was female, young, and married with a college-age son. All of my professors in my doctoral program were male (as wonderful as they were) and all but one of the reading faculty in my first university job were male. In universities when I was a student and a fledgling professor, the preponderance of faculty was male, and thus, even the professional organizations were likewise male-dominated. There simply were very few female professors, in part because women were not encouraged to pursue Ph.D. degrees, and most certainly, married women did not do that then. (This is not true today.) So I knew that I needed to be both a role model and mentor to our young female doctoral students, and I felt this responsibility to mentor throughout my university career. In later years as a senior faculty member I assumed a mentorship  role with new faculty, both female and male, to help them manage a healthy balance between their teaching and publishing responsibilities as they worked toward tenure and promotion.

What advice would you have for working women today?
Find what you are passionate about and do that. I know for certain as I look back on my career that I had the luxury of loving what I did, from start to finish. It wasn’t perfect—nothing is—but my work was exciting, interesting, fulfilling and vital to me.

What do you hope your legacy will be?
I hope my academic legacy is that my work—my research, paper presentations, publications and leadership—will stand the test of time and will contribute to the work of those who have, and will, come after me.

I hope my legacy to my students is that I was, indeed, a role model of good teaching, that I challenged them and supported them, and that I helped them grow and learn beyond their own expectations. It is deeply pleasing to me that a number of my former university student mentees are now close friends. Not long ago I got a letter from a student who had been in my 7th grade language arts class in the very early years of my teaching career. He is now a city mayor in Arkansas. He said he found me through the internet because he wanted me to know that he considered me to be the best teacher he’d ever had. That is every teacher’s dream legacy.