Martha Justice is retiring as a history teacher after serving for almost four decades
For 37 years, Martha Justice has walked the hallways of Marshall Middle Magnet School as a history teacher.
She has always been known by staff and students alike for her smile, witty sense of humor, and a personality to brighten anyone’s day. For that reason, many at Marshall Middle are sad to see her depart as she plans on retiring after the school year ends.
Principal Dennis Mayo has had the opportunity to get to know Justice within the short two years he has been on campus.
“There are a lot of peoples’ lives that she has touched, and she really cares deeply for the students, and the community, and mostly the school too,” he said.
In the mornings, she takes the time to greet staff and make sure that they feel recognized, Mayo said. She also shows her consideration when presenting staff with her framed mosaic artwork.
“That’s her love for Marshall shown through her actions and her gifts as well as what she’s doing in her classrooms,” Mayo said.
Working at a school for almost 40 years has granted Justice the privilege of watching her students excel and move on, while seeing a new set of students to educate in a fun way. She’s also taught former students who have had their kids in her classes, and in some instances grandkids.
“When dealing with multiple generations, that trust becomes a valuable commodity when you’re trying to change students’ lives,” Mayo said
Several faculty members at Marshall Middle were students of hers and say that she’s still the same fun teacher they remember growing up with, such as Sabrina Wright.
“She always had a sense of humor,” Wright said, the school’s bookkeeper. “She made learning in there fun. She’s never changed. Even if you see her out in the street, she’s the same way – loving, friendly.”
She recalled Justice giving her the name Jasmine because she reminded her of an actress who played on the sitcom A Different World.
“My biggest downfall of retiring is I’m going to miss my people very much,” Justice said. “It’s not my job, it’s my home, and I love my kids.”
The Plant City native was also a student herself, at Marshall Middle.
She was initially a psychology major and was several courses away from graduating with her B.A., when she was put on class probation. She recalls there being barely any openings for graduate school and that it would be a struggle finding work with only a B.A. in psychology.
Her guidance counselor suggested that she steer herself toward education.
In 1981 she found herself now working at the same school that she attended, and eventually received a full-time staff position in 1985.
She said that her love for the school and her students are what has kept her grounded there after all these years.
“The idea is to make sure that when they come into my room, that they feel safe,” Justice said. “They don’t have to worry about all the negativity in the world.”
One of her students who feels comfortable in her class is Isabella Pantoja.
“Before, I was always interested in history,” the sixth-grader said. “When I came here…I went into Ms. Justice’ class and I said to my mom, ‘I want to be in her class,’ and that happened. She makes things interesting. She wants us to learn a lot. She makes things in a positive way.”
Cordell Walsh said that Ms. Justice class actually helped him have an interest in the subject.
“When I was in elementary school, I said ‘history sucks’… but since I got here and I had her I was like ‘okay, maybe history is cool.”
Justice is currently writing a book based on three women who survived the Holocaust and plans to devote more time toward it.
Although she’s clearing her office little by little, she reassures her students that they will see her around, and that her memories will still be left there.
And she tells them what she has always told her students when leaving her class: I love you.
“I’ve always tried to let them understand and know, if nobody else in this world loves you, Ms. Justice does.”