Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Andy Levitre visited Washington West Elementary School (Olean, NY) and the classroom of teacher Brian Martin, grand prize winner of the Bills and M&T Bank's "Touchdown for Teachers" program, on December 9th. As excited as Martin and his students were for the arrival of Levitre, the surprise was on Andy.
"My favorite part was all the cheers that the kids had for me," said Levitre. "I didn't realize that they were going to give me as much attention as they did. I thought it was going to be honoring Mr. Martin more, but I guess that's why he won! He is a phenomenal teacher and a great person. You can really tell that he does so much for his students and doesn't want any of the credit for the impact that he makes. It was exciting, the kids had a lot of energy, and I really felt like the school was really happy to have me. I was just as happy to be there."
In a shining example of the outstanding qualities that Martin possesses as a person and teacher, he personally bought special #67 Andy Levitre t-shirts for every student in his class. Also, at the school's special assembly, Martin had the entire school give Levitre multiple rousing standing ovations, chant his name and cheer for him like a rock star. Martin wanted to make it a fun and memorable experience for the kids, and for Levitre, and it was an exciting and electric atmosphere.
Martin said, "Andy was amazing today, he was great with the kids and he put a huge smile on their faces. The excitement that the kids had leading up to Andy's visit was unbelievable. The attendance was perfect today and they were all anticipating seeing Andy here, and he just had a huge effect on them as far as emotions and making them feel good."
The "Touchdown for Teachers" program was created by M&T Bank and the Buffalo Bills to honor teachers for their outstanding service to their schools and communities. There were over 100 applicants and five finalists were chosen based on their amount of involvement in the school or community, the degree of positive impact on the school or community, and their demonstrated commitment to education.
"I think that Brian winning was a perfect candidate," said Colleen Taggerty, superintendent of the Olean school district. "Brian is someone who doesn't just think of himself, but he projects to others the image of selflessness and just the respect that he gives he gets back. He's not honoring himself which is what we were all here for, he's honoring those around him. Brian is an outstanding role model for our kids. And, I think Andy was outstanding as well. To watch that young man come in and do what he's done and interact with these young people the way that he has, he deserves credit for that too. He is an extraordinary individual and he was the perfect choice to come here."
Martin goes above and beyond for his school, church and community volunteering, filling-in when needed, and organizing events with the most positive of attitudes. The students, fellow teachers, principal and superintendents all speak so very highly of him. However, even more memorable is how he handled his service of giving back to his country.
Martin, who recently finished eight years in the Army Reserves and served with his unit in Iraq for 1 and ½ years, is an inspiration to his community, school and students. Before his deployment to Iraq, his school held a special assembly in Martin's honor. Martin was given presentations from students and fellow teachers, hugs and tears were shed, and the Olean mayor surprised him with a key to the city.
Martin's response to the whole event turned into a stirring and memorable message to the students where he talked about determination, commitment, and how important it was for the kids to work hard while he was away because he would be working hard too. He told the kids that he would be safe, and that his thoughts of them working hard would give him the strength to do the work he needed to do.
Fortunately, Martin made it back from Iraq and has been able to continue his ultimate passion...inspiring and teaching children to be the best they can.