CSU, Chico News

Antoinette Martinez Selected as Outstanding Teacher

Date: 02-05-2008

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

Antoinette “Nette” Martinez, Department of Anthropology, has been selected as the 2007 Outstanding Teacher for California State University, Chico. Those who nominated her for the award named her academic excellence and rigor, her rapport with students and her commitment to graduate students as a few of her outstanding qualities.

Professor Martinez came to CSU, Chico in 1999, newly graduated from UC Berkeley with a specialization in California archaeology. The 12 courses she has prepared and taught have ranged from general education courses, laboratory and field courses, and graduate seminars to community venues such as the Anthropology Forum. Most recently, she has introduced students to the prehistoric and historic archaeology of the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve.

Martinez’s area of expertise when she came to CSU, Chico was contact period archaeology (the time period when outsiders first contacted native inhabitants). “As a minority woman and anthropologist, my research interests began to center on the role of women as cultural mediators,” said Martinez. A 2003-2004 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship allowed her to research and draft the manuscript “Keepers of Tradition: Two Thousand Years of Cultural Continuity.”

Martinez teaches the archaeological field methods class focused on excavations. “Nette has used these field classes to advance our knowledge of local prehistory as well as train the next generation of California archeologists,” said William Loker, dean of Undergraduate Education. “She is especially careful to place a strong emphasis on archaeological ethics and is highly sensitive to local Native American concerns in her work. She has made a point of inviting representatives of local tribes to her excavation sites to ensure that her work is consistent with Native American values.”

Martinez routinely integrates students in research, which allows them to present papers at professional conferences and gather career-enhancing experience. In addition, she has sponsored students for the Graduate Equity Fellowship, the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Symposia, the statewide CSU Research Competition, the Cassanova pre-doctoral program and numerous internships at the Northeast Information Center.

Martinez has chaired the committees for 20 master’s thesis candidates. Two graduates students had theirs chosen as outstanding theses in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and one student had her thesis selected as the University’s Outstanding Thesis for spring 2007.

Martinez began her academic career nearly 20 years ago, when she was a single mother and a school bus driver. She took anthropology classes whenever she could fit them in. Eventually, she earned a BA and applied for an Equal Opportunity Fellowship with the hope of being awarded enough money to enroll in a summer field course. One of the requirements of the fellowship was application to graduate schools. She was accepted into the graduate program in the anthropology department at UC Berkeley. “It was a thrill to announce to my family in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that I was now ‘Dr. Martinez,’ ” she said.

Her experiences as a re-entry student with children have influenced her teaching and relationships with students. ”I guess my most recent teaching philosophy has been one of ‘transparency.’ Rather that worrying about expectations, I try to convey the real me: anthropologist, woman, family member, colleague, and a teacher with a lot of life experience, opinions, and biases. I still feel the same motivation and interest in anthropology that I felt when I was a student, and hopefully that comes through when I teach.”

Former student Annette DeBrotherton wrote about this approach in a letter of support for this honor, describing Martinez’s ability to understand how challenging it can be to balance family life and education. “Nette Martinez understands adversity and, having been a re-entry student with children of her own, knows how life impacts the educational process. She knows when to push us and when to listen. She always strikes a perfect balance of mentor, friend and superior educator. That has made her the bright spot in my educational experience.”