The Most Interesting Principal in the World: Cedarcrest Middle School’s Scott Martin
He bought his own airplane, and then crashed it. He helped create a video game company that sold for $1 million. He goes snowshoe camping on Mount Rainier in the winter. He bungee jumps just to have a cool story. He is the most interesting principal in the world.
Cedarcrest Middle School Principal Scott Martin has led an adventurous life, to say the least. But it wasn’t always that way.
Martin grew up in nearby Parkland, Washington and his childhood was pretty typical — maybe even a little boring. He wasn’t the most athletic kid in the world, so he shied away from sports in favor of arts and theater. His dad’s a pastor, and Martin spent a lot of time hanging out with his friends from his church’s youth group.
Despite describing his younger self as a “classic nerd,” Martin wasn’t a great student in school. He says he was one of those frustrating kids who scores high on standardized tests, but doesn’t put in the effort to actually get good grades.
He finally found his calling when he was cast in the lead of a high school play. Martin fell head-over-heals in love with all things theater, and when he headed off to college at Whitworth University, he knew exactly what he wanted to study.
Martin’s passion for theater wasn’t about getting famous even becoming a professional actor on Broadway. He loved that the techniques he was learning seemingly translated to so many other careers.
“I’ve been very excited about how applicable the theatrical skills really are. When you’re training as an actor, really you’re training to see other people’s perspective so you can emulate it — trying to understand the emotions that are going into things so you can reproduce them,” he said.
He didn’t know it at the time, but Martin’s college theater classes were preparing him for a life in education.
But that would come later. First, Martin tried his hand in the business world. He spent his first post-college years working for the Gap Corporation, leading a team that opened three Baby Gap stores in the Puget Sound area.
It was a good job, but he eventually grew tired of it and wanted to do something more meaningful with his life. For fun, he had been working with a youth theater group, which led him to start thinking about becoming a teacher.
After talking to his wife and mother in law — both of whom were working as teachers in the Bethel School District — Martin decided to try his hand at education.
The first job he got was a paraeducator in Puyallup working with developmentally delayed fifth and sixth graders. It was a tough job, but he absolutely loved being able to make a difference in kids’ lives.
“That sold me hook, line and sinker,” he said. “I was ready to be an educator.”
Martin went back to school to get his master’s degree in teaching, and then he spent six years teaching everything from English to math to P.E. at a junior high school in Puyallup.
It was during his time in Puyallup that he began thinking about transitioning into an administrative role. He loved teaching, but he wanted to see what kind of impact he could make on a larger scale. The one thing he knew for sure was that he wanted to be in a middle school.
“Middle school is where I belong,” he said. “Middle schoolers are on this bridge between being kids and adults. Mathematically, they’re closer to toddlers than they are to adulthood, but emotionally they’re stretching to become adults.”
Martin’s first full-role in administration was at Frontier Middle School, where he was dean of students under then-principal Tom Mitchell. A year later he was named assistant principal at Frontier, and he stayed in that role for five years until both he and Mitchell moved to Liberty Middle School.
He later spent two years as an assistant principal at Spanaway Lake High School, but his passion remained in middle school, so when he was given the chance to lead Cedarcrest, he jumped at it.
“It’s such an amazing time to connect with those kids. There’s no place better than middle school to be in the mix of them growing and changing and figuring out who they are,” he said.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Martin used his free time to explore other passions in his life. And boy, those passions have led to some interesting stories.
“I sort of collect unique experiences in my life,” Martin said. “I’ve been skydiving. I’ve been bungee jumping. I’ve owned my own plane, I’ve crashed my own plane. My college roommate and I founded a video game company that had over a quarter million people using it.”
Ok, about that video game company. In 2009, Martin and a group of his friends founded a company in Seattle that produced what became a very successful fantasy sports video game.
At one point more than 250,000 Facebook users were playing the game, and that got the attention of gaming giant Zynga, which swooped in and bought the entire company for a million dollars.
Martin said most of that money went back to the company’s early investors, so it wasn’t like he was ready to retire to the Caribbean. He could have stayed on and worked at the company, but he felt it was time to move on to other adventures.
That next adventure came in the form of an airplane. Even though he’d never even thought of becoming a pilot, Martin and his friend decided to go in on a small Cessna Cardinal airplane and learn to fly it.
Over the course of a year, Martin learned to pilot his new plane. Before long he had racked up an impressive 95 hours of flying time, which is just 5 hours short of the 100 needed to get insured.
And then he crashed the plane.
It was the first day of summer vacation, and Martin decided to pack up his golf clubs and make the short flight to Olympia to play a round of golf with a friend. Everything was going great until the landing. Just as he was preparing to touch down, the plane’s tail stalled out and it fell roughly 15 feet down onto the runway.
“Bouncing up and down wildly down the runway at 80 miles per hour, my eyes were pretty big and there was sort of an ‘expletive moment.’ But I managed to pull it together and then it was just bleeding off the adrenaline,” Martin said.
Martin wasn’t hurt, but the plane was in shambles. It took a full year to fix, and by that time Martin had moved on to his next adventure. He flew the plane once more and hasn’t been back in it since.
Martin has since moved on to outdoor adventures. He and his wife recently hiked the Wonderland Trail, which he describes as being “93 miles in the middle of nowhere.” The couple also went snowshoe camping in a tent on Mount Rainier this winter.
Martin insists he’s not an adrenaline junkie. Rather, he says, it’s all about collecting amazing experiences.
“It makes me nervous and kind of freaks me out, but I guess I’m not interested in living life where there’s not cool stories,” he said. “It’s not that I track adrenaline, but I do chase cool stories.”
Despite all of his extracurricular activities, Martin’s true joy comes from running Cedarcrest and working with his teachers and students.
“I’m just super jazzed to be at Cedarcrest,” he said. “The growth that I’ve seen since I’ve been here with teachers, the vision they have for this building and the future is amazing. Just being part of that has been incredible.”