Larry Martin, a fixture at Belinder Elementary for nearly 30 years who inspired thousands of 2nd graders, died this morning, the school’s administration informed parents and teachers this afternoon.
Martin, who called his students “Martin’s Marvels” and was well known throughout the community for his classes’ production of the “Marvel News” newspaper, stepped back from teaching after the start of this school year to focus on his health.
In a message sent to Belinder parents in mid-November, he said that “what began a short time ago as a mere health inconvenience hasn’t gone at all the way I or doctors expected it to. Tests this week make it clear that the outlook is very serious. I don’t have all of my plans worked out, but right now I’m forced to step back from the classroom and begin aggressive treatments.”
Belinder Principal Steve Yeoman informed the school community Friday afternoon that Martin had died.
“This is devastating news for all of us, as he has been a teacher here for many years, and was at the heart of the Belinder community,” Yeoman wrote. “As you can imagine, it will be an extremely difficult time for his family, as they process their grief.”
The district will be making staff available to talk with “anyone who is struggling to handle their emotions around this difficult issue. If your child would like to talk with someone, please encourage them to let an adult know, and we will help them.”
Martin’s popularity spread beyond the Shawnee Mission area last spring when he was a contestant on the Jeopardy Teachers Tournament. A nearly flawless debut earned him a place in the tournament semi-finals, which he also won to earn a spot in the two-day finals. He bested the other two teacher competitors, winning a cash prize.
Known for his approachable demeanor and encouraging attitude, Martin pushed his students to explore the world outside their classrooms. In 2015, with the help of a student’s family, he arranged to have President Barack Obama answer a question for publication in the Marvel News.