HARVEY, Ill. -- A Chicagoland teacher has found a unique way to connect with his students and improve their grades and attendance.
"At the end of the year, they kind of start shutting down, so I thought 'I'll just wear a cool pair of shoes,' because we were talking about shoes, and kids were coming up 'Hey, we just came to look at your shoes' and I was like 'Huh, that's very interesting,' and the next day I wore another pair and it kind of just snowballed," said Thornton Township High School science teacher Curtis Martin.
Martin has been a teacher for 24 years and has made a lasting impression on his students in south suburban Harvey.
"Mr. Martin is actually one of the best teachers in this school that can actually change a student and he makes all the students feel comfortable and he doesn't make you feel like you don't belong there," freshman Cassandra said.
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"There wasn't really much people around his room but ever since he started bringing shoes like that everybody knows him now," freshman Francisco said.
After his first pair of elaborate shoes gained popularity among the students, Martin decided to go over-the-top and wear a pair of MSCHF Big Red Boots, also known as the "Astro Boy" boot.
"I knew that finals was coming up, so I got the big red boots, and I used that where I put them on my desk I was like 'Ok we're going to do a review. If you answer three questions you get to wear my shoes for three or four minutes,' and the kids just were like, Christmas," Martin said.
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"It's been a great energy boost in the building," Thornton Principal Todd Whitaker said. "We've seen an increase in our attendance, our grades are improving because the students now feel like somebody sees me. They feel connected."
The students also convinced Martin to start a TikTok account, which has gained millions of views in just a short amount of time.
"I hope the reason behind it is not just the shoes," Martin said. "The connection with student teacher is crucial, especially now a days. There's a lot of different avenues that our teachers are using now to try to engage, we have to because that's our job."
Mr. Martin's shoe videos can be found on his TikTok account @martincoolkicks.