Challenging students to reach out
By Stacey Palmieri | email@example.com
Photo by Brenna Antram
“What I enjoy about the classes I get to teach is the students really want to learn what we’re teaching. It’s not something they have to do. We get students who are really great quality people,” Martha Shinn, coordinator of the Youth Ministry program at Flagler College, said.
For Shinn, teaching and working with kids isn’t just her job, it’s her passion. A member of Flagler’s 1978 graduating class, Shinn received a degree in social science with a minor in religion. She later received her master’s degree in theology and embarked on a religious journey to impact the lives of kids.
Shinn worked with Young Life, a religious organization that offers fun and spirituality to kids, before taking over the youth ministry program at Flagler in 1990. Since then she has influenced the lives of hundreds of students who are discovering themselves and exploring religion at Flagler and through Young Life.
“So many students talk about her impact on them…both in and out of class. She spends half her days in her office listening to students. It’s her strongest gift,” Les Comee, an instructor at Flagler who teaches several classes with Shinn, said.
During her college years, Shinn spent time tutoring students in inner city schools. “Martha has taught us to be concerned for all kinds of kids…black, white, rich, poor, deaf and blind, special needs. Her work in Young Life has challenged students to reach out to everyone,” Comee said.
Shinn teaches youth ministry courses at Flagler, including introduction to youth ministry, youth ministry skills II, pastoral counseling, Christian disciplines and the gospel of Mark. She is an active member of Young Life, which many Flagler students work with and involves kids from all over.
Brooks Stapleton, a student of Shinn’s, said, “I love Martha Shinn. She is the most compassionate woman I have ever met. She really cares for each of her students and takes time to get to know each one of them.”
Her caring nature makes her students feel comfortable talking to her. “She’s always helpful and will gladly explain something to you when you don’t understand. You feel very comfortable being around her, as if you’ve known her for a long time,” former student Alexander Gianopulus said.
“In the short time that I have had her for a teacher, I have grown very fond of her…she is obviously devoted to her time as a teacher, role model and a servant of God through her work with youth,” student Bobbi Wirkner said.
Most of her students find her sincere care and concern for them and what is going on in their lives one of her greatest characteristics. “She always takes time to greet everyone and talk to them before or after class,” student Cynthia Dueling said. “She makes the class feel like a family.”
Shinn’s favorite part of her job here at Flagler is “watching people who come as freshman and seeing how they wind up…the hard part is getting close to a group of students, and then they leave,” she said.
Shinn’s students think she is a professor every student is fortunate to have. They know she truly cares about her students. She is able to say with full honesty, “I love what I do.”