Sullivan resident Joyce Martin has always been good at math. But it wasn’t until after tutoring in the East Central College math department that she ever even considered a career in teaching.

Now, 36 years later and despite being “retired,” Martin continues to educate college students at ECC.

She spent most of her teaching career at the main campus in Union and now teaches at the Sullivan site.

Path to Teaching

After high school, Martin attended college for one year before getting married to her husband, Robert, whom she will have been married to for 43 years this August. She spent five years at home with her two children, Edward and Bobbi.

When she went back to college, at ECC, Martin planned to get a degree in accounting, and possibly work in a bank. With two young children, she wanted a job that would work around her children’s schedules.

It was in 1978 that she began tutoring in the testing center at ECC. Martin earned her master’s degree from Webster University in 1985.

Once she earned her degree she switched to teaching full time.

Martin also taught one year at Union High School as a partnership with ECC. A teacher was going to be gone for an extended period so ECC let Martin “be on loan,” she explained.

Career in Math

At East Central College, Martin taught all types of math classes from prealgebra to the more difficult classes, “but I preferred to teach the lower levels,” she said.

“I found it very rewarding to teach students who had a lot of trouble with math all through school,” she added.

She didn’t get upset when students said they hated math, because often, they would end up grasping the concepts.

“I would tell them ‘You don’t hate it, you just don’t understand it and hopefully by the end of the semester, you’ll have an open mind,’ ” she said.

At ECC, Martin was active in the faculty association group, where she was an officer at several different levels. She served on the insurance committee to help the college choose an insurance agency and worked with administration on things the faculty wanted or needed.

She was, and continues to be, very active with the fitness trail at ECC’s main campus.

The trail, in which the outer portion circles the college’s soccer, baseball and soccer fields, is just under one mile.

“We have a tree planted for everyone who retired from (or leaves) East Central with more than 10 years of service,” she said.

Typically, the trees have a small stone beside them denoting who they’re in honor or memory of.

The program started in the college’s horticulture department, which no longer exists. The department planted a variety of trees to fit in with their studies, she explained. When the instructor left, Martin took the program over.

She said she chooses trees indigenous to the area so they thrive.

“It’s just grown and grown, and we’ve got a lot of trees,” she said.

For about two years, Martin sponsored the Phi Theta Kappa national honor society.

Then, a position opened as the head of the math department opened. Martin wanted to dedicate her time to the position, so she gave up leading Phi Theta Kappa.

She scheduled classes to make sure they fit students’ ‘interests, filled out reports and paperwork for administration and the state and found and assigned instructors for various classes.

She was the math department chair for about four years before the college reorganized and she went back to teaching full time.

There have been many changes at ECC over the years, but Martin said it still keeps the “community” in community college.

“There was an instructor we used to have at East Central . . . and he said the thing we always needed to remember is that we are a community college, and we need to keep the community in it,” Martin said.

Classes have remained relatively small, despite the number of buildings growing. Teachers still know their students’s names and something about them.

While she worked with a lot of good teachers, Martin said she looked up to Brian Hickey, a former economics and math instructor at ECC.

“He was a good role model,” she said. “I always thought he was the kind of teacher I wanted to be. He was firm, but he was so student oriented. The students were important to him.”

Occasionally, Martin will see students she taught excelling in the community.

“So many students think they’re taking math because it’s required, and they really don’t have the full picture of how much they’re going to use it,” Martin said.

She retired from ECC in 2013.

“I loved what I did. I loved working with the students, even the difficult ones, and I wouldn’t change it,” Martin said, adding that she feels lucky to have a career she enjoyed.

“I always told my students if they would give me 100 percent, I would give them 100 percent. If you show the students you care, then they care more,” she said.


Martin volunteers for several area organizations.

She has volunteered with the Franklin County Habitat for Humanity for the past seven years. The group currently is working to build a home in New Haven, and though she can’t drive a nail straight, she enjoys helping in whatever ways she can.

“It’s a wonderful organization. There is nothing quite like turning a house over to people who never thought they would have a house,” Martin said. “When we give them the keys we usually cry.”

Each April, the ECC culinary arts program hosts a dinner fund-raiser for Habitat, Martin said, adding that the culinary program does a “wonderful” job hosting the event.

“It is a huge fund-raiser for us,” she said. Last year, more than $7,500 was raised by the students.

Martin noted that the organization always is seeking volunteers.

She also is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Sullivan Chapter, which is an affiliate of the Masons. The Masons are the second-largest charitable service organization in the United States, she said.

The program helps with scholarships, backpack programs and other local missions.

Martin joined the organization 30 years ago, but said she has only been active for the last 10 to 15 years.

“They’re like an extended family, all looking for what they can do for somebody who needs it,” she said.

The group helps with the CHIPS (child identification) program. Pictures of a child, including a profile shot, identifying marks, emergency contacts, laser fingerprints and other identifying characteristics are put on a CD for parents in case of an emergency.

“We do not keep any of it, but if a child would turn up missing, (parents) can produce that and it’s everything that needs to go out on Amber Alert,” she said. “We want that at your fingertips and we hope you never have to use it.”

She brought the program to the college on several occasions.

Martin has been a member of the Missouri Baptist Hospital Auxiliary for about five years.

She is a strong supporter of volunteerism in the community.

“If every reader (Senior Lifetimes) has would just give one hour of volunteer time to an organization, this community would be so much better off,” she said. “It’s so rewarding, and it comes back to them double.”