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Marty Martynuska, a dedicated educator for 30+ years, is alive today because of some special people

Marty Martynuska

… a truly inspirational story

Part 1

Many of the loves that we cherish as adults originated in our childhoods. That is often the case with the love that impels us into a career.

Such was the case with a current elementary school administrator in Pittsburgh who spent his formative years in an area of west-central Pennsylvania known as the “Lilly Level.”

Marty Martynuska is the son of Ray and Kathy Martynuska, and he owes so much to them. Their example led him to a career in education that has spanned more than three decades.

However, his last three to four years have been eventful because of some health challenges that imperiled his life, to say the least.

This is the story of a young man who became a college athlete and then a young educator with a mission in mind — but who also battled against some of nature’s challenges..

The early years

As a young boy in Lilly, Marty dreamed the usual dreams of young kids: Being a professional baseball player was one of them.

He played little league and pony league baseball and also competed in basketball for the Lilly Raiders. During that time, he watched his father, a history teacher and track and field coach at Penn Cambria High School, and he learned a number of lessons.

I tried a number of sports when I was young, but I realized that I was not that big, about 120 pounds as a high school senior. I played basketball with the Lilly Raiders with coach Bob Reese and then with my dad and Phil McGivney in ninth grade. After my sophomore year at Penn Cambria High School, I decided to direct my full athletic focus on track and cross country.

Then I realized how much enjoyment I could get from running.

Interview with Marty Martynuska, December 29, 2021

During that time, he went through a humbling experience that turned into a very positive one, changing his athletic focus. He was humbled by being cut from the legion baseball team, but the positive was something that he pursued in high school and then as a collegiate athlete,

I realized that runners are very disciplined and routine-oriented. Through running, I have enjoyed the camaraderie with so many people, whether they are teammates, coaches, or even competitors. These relationships, along with the discipline that running creates, helped to lead me to a fulfilling life and professional career.

Interview with Marty Martynuska, December 29, 2021

His parental influence

During high school, Marty also had to make a decision about a career — after realizing that professional sports would not be a realistic option.

Education was something that he viewed first-hand during those years, and he realized the benefits of such a potential life,

Early in my high school years, I started thinking about being an attorney. Then, I watched my dad teach in high school and coach a number of sports. My mother was an R.N. (Registered Nurse) and she worked for Intermediate Unit 8 as an Early Intervention Service Coordinator. She traveled to people’s homes and screened children from ages one-and-a-half to four to determine if they qualified for support services in pre-school.

I watched my parents and how they made it their life mission to support young children to grow into productive adults. My parents modeled exactly what I wanted to do with my career, which is to support and revel in the growth of young people.

Interview with Marty Martynuska, December 29, 2021

Working with young people

What reinforced that message was some experience that he had during these years. One of these included some work in sports, and while in college, he became involved with some other beneficial activities that continued to codify his passion for supporting the growth of others,

I started umpiring little league and then pony league baseball games while in high school and college, and that kind of solidified my interest to choose the career path of education. Then, in college, I had an opportunity to work as a tutor and counselor in the Upward Bound program at St. Francis College. I worked with some older high school kids and lived for six weeks with them in the summers. I supported students academically, acted as a mentor, and supervised the intramural sports program.

I looked at the joy and fulfillment that my parents received from educating children, and that became my life’s mission. As an educator, one’s wealth comes from the relationships we build with students, parents, and community. There is no greater satisfaction for me than to see a student become successful and to have known, supported, and believed in them.

Interview with Marty Martynuska, December 29, 2021

Track and Cross-country

Marty was an accomplished track and cross country runner in high school and competed in the state championships. He matriculated at Susquehanna University where he became a successful member of the track and cross country teams. He pursued a career in education, and upon graduation was hired as a teacher at the School District of Haverford Township in suburban Philadelphia.

He taught there for five years, but during that time, his principal, Dan Marsella, encouraged him to pursue a career in leadership. That led him to a master’s program that he finished quickly, and by the time that he was 26-years-old, he was hired as an assistant principal in the Fleetwood Area School District, becoming one of the youngest school administrators in the state.

Two years later, he was hired as an elementary principal in the Shaler School District in Glenshaw, and he has been there for 25 years,

I enjoyed the close connections with students as a 5th grade teacher, but I wanted to be impactful on a different scale. This spawned my interest in educational leadership. As a school principal, I am able to forge relationships with an array of people such as parents, community, and other colleagues. However, I will always consider myself a teacher, even as a principal.

Interview with Marty Martynuska, December 29, 2021

Marty was first a principal at the Marzolf Primary and Elementary School at Shaler, and then he became the Middle school principal. Currently, he is the principal at the Reserve Primary School at Shaler.

Health problems created challenges

[I am going to go into more detail with this in a later post, but this gives an overview of his challenges.]

In December of 2018, Marty was helping his wife, Nancy, who was baking some Christmas cookies, and he went to bed. Shortly after doing that, his wife came upstairs and discovered that Marty had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. Nancy was able to quickly identify what was happening and called 911, while the operator provided instructions about how to successfully perform CPR. The Shaler Police Department and EMT responders used an AED and were able to shock him back to life.

When entering the hospital, Marty had two more cardiac arrests, and the decision was made to perform emergency quintuple cardiac bypass surgery. That was performed, allowing him to recover and return to work within six weeks.

After the surgery, he then experienced another sudden cardiac arrest in June of 2020, very early in the morning of his daughter’s high school graduation day. This cardiac arrest was caused by an arrythmia, which resulted in the implantation of a defibrillator into his body.

However, on Labor Day, he again experienced problems when his defibrillator fired. It was discovered that he had experienced some additional abnormal cardiac rhythms, which are now being managed through medication.

In all three cases, he came close to passing away. However, in each case, people were there and were able to provide the support that he needed, something that provides him with a sense of gratitude today.

The odds of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest while at home and in bed while asleep are less than 5%. It is miraculous that I have survived multiple cardiac arrests while in this situation. It is a message to me that clearly I must have more work to do in this world. Knowing this, I value my time spent here and try to do the most good in supporting others.

I am eternally grateful for the quick and decisive action of my wife Nancy, my stepchildren Lilliana and Harrison, and the first responders from Shaler, namely a fine young EMT named Amanda.

Mr. [Fred] Rogers always said that in a difficult time, people should “Look for the helpers.” Well, my helpers looked out for me and rose to the occasion in three very high stress situations. In sports terms, they came through for me in the clutch when I needed someone to continue living, and there is no better clutch performance than that! As a result, I am alive and well today and trying to physically take care of myself and stay fit by running six days a week and watching my diet.

Marty Martynuska

Front, Marty and his wife, Nancy Front Nancy Loskoch

Back: Alexander and Tyler Martynuska and Harrison and Lilliana Repko

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