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'This Is A Calling': Principal Of The Year Inspires Boston Students

BOSTON (CBS) - The 2018 Massachusetts Elementary School Principal of the Year is the leader of a school in Boston where 80% of the students are economically disadvantaged and 32% do not speak English as their first language at home. This is his sixth year as Principal at the Michael J. Perkins School, and Craig Martin gets rave reviews from his students.

Fifth grader Anjuli Patel says, "He's very inspiring and like he makes me want to come to school and learn and get a good education."

Her classmate Jayden Travers calls Mr. Martin "kind and caring" and Zidane Nogueiro adds "he will just never stop – he's fun!"

Craig Martin
Principal Craig Martin (WBZ-TV)

Martin stresses that the key to success at a school like the Perkins, which he's taken from Level Three to Level One, is that he is invested – he's all in.

"This is a calling - I honestly feel like you have to make decisions that you are all the way in with this. You could just say I'm going to phone it in - no not with these souls here, not the kids we serve because they need us 100%."

And he shows kids they are loved. "I hug kids I show affection I give them a handshake, the high fives," he says.

Craig Martin
Principal Craig Martin (WBZ-TV)

Mr. Martin's style gets results and has shown a lot of success. Under his leadership, suspensions are down 50% and chronic absenteeism is down 22%.

He's also embraced social media. He uses videos he posts on Twitter as a way to open up the school, and make his work visible to families who might feel disconnected from the community. For immigrant families, his videos explaining the first day of school or praising students can often be their first peek inside the Perkins School building.

"One (family) that came from China," he says, "and saw video before they got here. And we had two from Europe and they said 'OK we saw your videos so we know this is the school to come to.'"

He clearly enjoys the creativity as a way to showcase his dynamic personality, and he plans to continue: "I'm going to continue to produce some different media to engage the community and our kids love it as well."

Craig Martin
Principal Craig Martin (WBZ-TV)

Paula Ebben asked him, "As an African American teacher and Principal - how important is it for children to see you as the school leader?"

Martin says it's imperative: "It's incredibly important to see reflections of yourself not just as a school leader, but it's great as a school leader that young kids who look like me are excited about engaging with me."

Teachers on the Perkins faculty like Liz Bishop, who teaches English as a Second Language stress that he has enormous impact on the culture of the school. "He's very thoughtful in what he does," Bishop says "and he's very charismatic - he makes this place warm and inviting the second you walk in the door."

Kindergarten and Art Teacher Bryson Rainey says Craig Martin sets the tone. "Dedication - he cares about the kids and that's what is most important," Rainey said.

Mr. Martin has been chosen by Mayor Marty Walsh to be on the Committee to search for the new Superintendent of Boston Public School.

In the New Year, we want to tell the story of spectacular teachers in your town if you want us to know about a teacher you would rave about email us or email Paula Ebben or contact her on twitter: @PaulaEbbenWBZ.

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