Former drill sergeant inspires elementary students as principal

Debra's Army photo (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Debra's Army photo (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A former Army drill sergeant is inspiring Memphis students to follow their dreams.

Wearing heels and a dress, you wouldn't know it at first glance, but principal Debra Martin is a retired Army drill sergeant.

It's a little-known fact that her students at Downtown Elementary find hard to believe.

"They're like 'No you didn't, no you didn't.' So with some people I actually have to show them my picture," Martin said.

Martin spent 20 years in the Army teaching new recruits lessons in survival and life skills. She now translates those skills in the classroom.

"If our students aren't disciplined or structured, they are not going to be really learning anything," Martin said. "They're going to be distracted."

At her core, she's firm but fun and not afraid to take on a challenge.

Martin has been principal at Downtown Elementary for the past year. She says she became interested in being an educator while in the Army serving as a recruiter and participating in career days.

"I've just learned to change from just being that person who needs to get everything done like right now, to being more compassionate and understanding," Martin said.

Martin said her mission is to teach responsibility.

"Be leaders and lead by example because that's something I've learned from the military as well," Martin said.

She believes her military service prepared her for her current position and she hopes she can inspire her students to follow their dreams.

"All of our children here can accomplish the world and they have it here before them and so that's my mission and my hope for the school," Martin said.

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