by Meredith Dault
January 26, 2011
Describing Deepa Mansharamani Martell as busy would probably be an understatement. She’s not only working as a full-time teacher with Limestone District Board of Education and pursuing her Master’s degree in education part-time at Queen’s-- she’s also the mother of two young boys, Cameron, aged one, and Rylan who is two.
On this particular evening, after a long day at work, she’s grabbing her dinner on the go before heading to a lecture about learning disabilities. Sipping back a quick coffee, she laughs when she thinks about her life’s hectic pace. “The hardest part is not seeing the kids,” she says. “Like today: I won’t get to put them to bed. Usually I don’t get to eat dinner! Coffee fuels me - which I know isn’t good! But there just isn’t time.” Not that she’s complaining. Driven and attracted to challenges, Mansharamani Martell, 30, admits that she gets bored easily, and likes being busy.
A Toronto native, Mansharamani Martell first came to Queen’s as an undergraduate, studying Concurrent Education and Life Sciences. Though she now calls herself a “lifetime Kingstonian,” (a homeowner, with no plans to leave) she admits that wasn’t always the case. “I really didn’t like Kingston,” she laughs, recalling her early days living in the student ghetto. “The buildings were grey, the snow was grey!” But she adjusted, soon meeting the man who would become her husband, an officer with the Ontario Provincial Police. When he was posted to Eganville, Ontario, the pair relocated, where Mansharamani Martell, who had just earned her Bachelor of Education degree, got a job with the Renfrew District County School Board.
Three years later, she and her husband moved back to Kingston. After a stint as a supply teacher, Mansharamani Martell got a full-time position teaching students with development disabilities with the Limestone District School Board. She had already started her Master’s degree part-time while in Eganville, and had been commuting to Kingston whenever it was required. Though she had first considered doing research in Nunavut, her plans changed with her first pregnancy. Taking two years off with her children (born 14 months apart), Mansharamani Martell resumed her course-work in September 2010, and hopes to have her degree in-hand by the summer.
Her current work investigates the ideas around teaching morality to children. “Being a teacher, I’ve seen that there isn’t enough value put on that right now,” she explains. While Mansharamani Martell says that schools teach “character education” (how and why children need to share or respect their teachers, for example), they don’t teach morals. She cites an increased dependence on technology and stressed, time-strapped parents as reasons that schools need to step-up the “moral literacy”. “We’re spending less quality time with the kids, and so there isn’t always that opportunity to teach them morals. We aren’t born with morals - we have to learn them. Everything I have read indicates that schools, parents and communities have to work together to raise the next generation with morals. It has to be explicitly done.”
When it comes to getting her work done, Mansharamani Martell says it all comes down to timing. “The kids go to bed at 8pm, and then the computer comes out and the work comes out. A lot of the time it is, as my supervisor (Dr. Denise Stockley) would say, the art of negotiating with your family.” For example, rather than taking a holiday at Christmas this year, her family spent their time at home so that Mansharamani Martell , who had two weeks off from work, could focus on completing her literature review. “We stayed home and everyone came to us!” she laughs.
While she and her husband have just hired a nanny to help ease the workload at home, Mansharamani Martell indicates no plans to slow down. “I wanted a Master’s degree in my back pocket,” she says with a confident smile. “It opens up a few more avenues for me to explore within my profession.” Though she doesn’t think a PhD is in the cards right now, she is attracted to the idea of eventually pursuing an MBA. She also intends to take the additional training (through the faculty of education) in order to be an administrator with the Limestone District School Board down the road -- though not while her children are little.
For now, Mansharamani Martell, is excited about her work and is pleased with the way things have unfolded. “I am motivated to do it because I am personally connected to it,” she explains passionately. I inherently believe in my research. I want my school board to use my research. I don’t want it to end up being a book on a shelf -- that’s not the point!”