It's impressive to watch someone pursue a dream, even when it is not what you would expect.
Martha Dobson teaches sixth-grade English at Mount Pleasant Middle School. She is the wife of a local physician, a mother, a Girl Scout leader and an all-around pillar of the community. So you may be surprised to learn her dream is to participate in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska.
Already, congratulations are in order for Martha, who is one of three finalists for the Target 2011 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail position.
Martha said many people are surprised at her interest. They see her as petite and quiet, but she calls herself a tomboy at heart who loves animals, the outdoors and challenges.
When she returned to teaching eight years ago, she assigned her students a novel set at the Iditarod. Fascinated, she went to Anchorage, where she heard the author speak, saw the race start and learned about the educators' conference associated with it.
The Teacher on the Trail will develop lesson plans based on the race, be a public representative for teachers and the race and, best of all, go on the 2011 race (in a bush plane, not on a sled), posting photos and blogging.
The fierce competition requires her résumé; an essay on why she wants to go; another on stressful experiences that could prepare her for such a challenge; lesson plans; and letters of recommendation. She had to explain how she's used the race as a teaching tool and create a CD introducing herself to the selection committee.
Next month she'll go to Anchorage for an interview and a presentation at the educators' conference. The committee will give her projects to complete, and she'll help with this year's race. She's working on a research paper on using the Iditarod as a classroom tool.
That all sounds challenging enough as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Martha has gone through it three times. Previously she finished fifth, then fourth. But she was determined and this year is a finalist.
Everyone at Mount Pleasant Middle School knows Mrs. Dobson loves the Iditarod, if only because she's led the school through the "Iditaread" program for several years. The school's goal is to read a book for each of the race's 1,049 miles. Students who finish a book to reach a checkpoint on the race trail get a prize. Whoever reads the last book wins the Red Lantern Award, a symbol of perseverance and endurance.
Martha Dobson embodies those traits. She's worked hard to achieve her dream. No matter what the outcome, she is already a winner.
Freelance columnist Marcia Morris ( firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Georgeville.