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Martha Frutchey
Excellence in Education

Historians relish the opportunity to "live in interesting times". For Martha Frutchey, the true joy of history is discussing the interesting times and people that have shaped our past. As a North Attleboro High School history teacher for 35 years, Martha eloquently engaged her thousands of students with stories of ancient history, connections to modern times and concepts of world conflict. Her passion for history and learning left an indelible impact on her students, the school’s curriculum and the many colleagues who followed her lead.

After growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Martha attended Grinnell College in Iowa and graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science. While at Grinnell, Martha met a professor who was in the process of starting a Master’s of Art in Teaching at Brown University. He encouraged her to attend, and Martha promptly earned a one-year Fellowship at Brown. In 1967, Martha interviewed with William Kelly, the North Attleboro High School assistant principal and Brown University graduate, and joined the North Attleboro High School staff in the fall. She represented one of many young staff members that were hired and served as the lone female social studies teacher for the next 25 years.

Martha started her career by teaching ancient history, US history and a Humanities elective called “Problems of Democracy”. She quickly established herself as a pure teacher, with the unique ability to teach many subjects and many levels of students effectively. Rather than dates, Martha focused on concepts and context, family and organizational dynamics, and the “foibles” and the “idiosyncrasies” of historical figures. Through this approach, Martha developed deeper connections with her students.

It was Martha’s understanding of students that led her to develop the very popular Grade 12 elective “Military History”. The course provided a high-interest, hands-on alternative for seniors and a means to address the Vietnam War for Martha. Martha covered the strategy and elements of warfare from the Roman Empire, through World War I and II and finished with Vietnam. Students could not wait to play the strategic World War I board game Diplomacy or develop plans to attack a castle. Military History is still extremely popular today.

Martha not only had the privilege of discussing history, but on at least three occasions she faced the task of rewriting how history was taught. Midway through her career, she developed a course called “Human Experience” – which transformed ancient history into a topical curriculum. Years later, she joined a team of teachers who taught a pilot US History II course that addressed modern history. And finally, just before her retirement in 2002, Martha helped transform Human Experience into a Western Civilization course.

Martha’s leadership, knowledge, and innovative approach was a constant in the social studies department, and she served as a valuable resource for so many new teachers. She remembers North Attleboro High School as a nurturing place with a strong, supportive faculty and exceptional students.

Martha resides in Providence, RI with her husband, Jim Frutchey, a retired North Attleboro History teacher. She has two children, Elizabeth and Andrew, and she is currently running training programs for the Girls Scouts of Rhode Island.