Melody Giffin Martin, 58 acclaimed teacher, author
Melody Giffin Martin inspired students as a Teacher of the Year and drew inspiration from them as an educator-turned-author.
When she left her teaching post at San Dieguito High School in 1978 to begin a writing career, she began a book, “Mrs. Kamali Would Like to Speak to You About Cloud,” that reflected her classroom experiences.
Ms. Martin, who wrote two other books and several unpublished manuscripts during the last two decades, died in her sleep March 6 at her Carlsbad home. She was 58.
Although she recently had experienced hip and back pain, she was otherwise in good health, said her mother, Ruth Godley.
Prior to her death, she had been working on an update of “Getting Off to College,” an instructional book for high school students and their parents published in 1982.
Ms. Martin’s second novel, “Month of Sundays,” received a glowing review in 1990 in The San Diego Union. “Perhaps it is because Martin is an award-winning teacher that her juvenile characters ring true,” wrote free-lance critic Glenda Winters. “Their feelings and reactions are authentic, and their vocabulary is easy and familiar.”
The book was optioned to Hearst Corp. and was submitted to NBC for consideration as the basis for a TV movie script in 1993.
“Melody was a prolific writer,” Godley said. “When a manuscript was rejected, she would start on a new book project rather than revising the rejection. She was very interested in the world around her and would write about anything.”
Her unpublished revision of “Getting Off to College” was prefaced by several pages of poems on subjects dealing with teen-agers.
Ms. Martin, a native of Lawrence, Mass., overcame the disadvantages of being born with one hand.
She moved with her family to Rancho Santa Fe in the early 1950s and went on to graduate from San Dieguito High School. “She was head cheerleader in high school and did cartwheels with an artificial arm,” Godley said. “She was a wonderful swimmer and never considered her condition a handicap.”
She became fluent in Spanish and French during her undergraduate days at San Diego State University and spent two years as an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence, France.
After beginning her teaching career in Poway, she returned to college at night and earned master’s and doctorate degrees at United States International University.
In 1976, as a language arts instructor in San Dieguito High’s gifted program, she was chosen among San Diego County’s teachers of the year.
Her father, Ralph William Giffin, was former president and publisher of Ranch and Coast Publishing Co., The Gold Book Telephone Directory and the Village Press Inc. He died in 1984.
In addition to her mother, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, Ms. Martin is survived by sisters, Pamela Giffin Brees of Fremont, Janice Giffin Galante of Milan, Italy, and Mary Giffin Valesano of Santa Rosa; and brothers, Ralph Giffin II of Azalea, Ore., and Mark Giffin of San Diego.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Friday at Village Community Presbyterian Church, Rancho Santa Fe. Donations are suggested in her name to the Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild, Box 348, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067.
—”Melody Giffin Martin, 58 acclaimed teacher, author” by Jack Williams, San Diego Union Tribune, published March 12, 2003