FACE of the Week: Martha Adamczyk, volunteer at Sussex Elementary School
As part of BCPS’ commitment to ongoing Family And Community Engagement, the “FACE of the Week” is a new, regular feature of the BCPS website that introduces you to some of the people who make BCPS special – our volunteers and PTA members.


Almost every school has them.

Maybe it’s the inspirational educator who has taught generation after generation of schoolchildren. Perhaps it’s a visionary principal who has become a trusted community treasure. Or it may be that reliable custodian who’s considered nearly family by legions of students.

They are the people whose service transcends paychecks and time clocks. Their names become nearly synonymous with their schools, and they seem to have always been there. Many – from alumni to colleagues to students – believe they always will be there, too.

Consider Martha Adamczyk, for example, and Sussex Elementary School.

As the school’s counselor for 17 years, "Marti" Adamczyk retired in 2010 after a 39-year career with Baltimore County’s public schools. But she came right back to Sussex, volunteering in a number of capacities and becoming so invaluable to the school that she was named a finalist for the 2015 Baltimore County Volunteer of the Year last spring.

"Marti is certainly well-loved and respected among everyone in our Sussex community," says Grade 2 teacher Terri Schwarz, who has known Adamczyk for at least 16 years and who now works with Marti one day a week in her classroom. "Marti is wonderful with encouraging and guiding the children with whatever they are working on in class. And the students love her thoughtfulness and gentle, caring ways. I’m lucky to have Marti as a volunteer as well as a dear friend, and my class is all the better for it, too." 

Marti, characteristically, doesn’t see it that way. "I feel unworthy," she says of the attention. "I just can’t sit still. I still want to be out and about, and I love working with kids. That was always my calling."

A powerful advocate

A "behind the scenes" person "who likes to quietly come in and help," according to Sussex Principal Tom Bowser, Marti Adamczyk journeys from her home in Bel Air once a week to help with Terri Schwarz’s second-grade classroom. She has volunteered in other capacities at the school since retiring, but she knew she always wanted to return to Sussex to volunteer, and to Schwarz’s classroom. "There’s sort of a family here; there’s sort of a core of us who work and volunteer. It’s a comfortable school," she says.

So committed has Adamczyk been to volunteering at Sussex that she has led an effort since last year to recall retirees from the school back to join the volunteer corps; Bowser named them the school’s "Volunteer Club," though Adamczyk insists "it’s not really a club." So far, she’s encouraged a handful of former staffers to come back.

"I have gotten so much enjoyment out of (volunteering); I thought (other retirees) would enjoy it, too," she says.

Adds Bowser, "Marti’s leadership is what kept her fellow Sussex retirees who make up our ‘Volunteer Club’ together. She led the way, and when her fellow retirees saw how rewarding her time with the children was for her, and the time spent with our teachers, they were convinced they should give it a try.

"Over the past year, many of our retired volunteers have moved or have taken on other responsibilities," Bowser says. "But Marti still keeps coming back."


Finding Sussex

 Adamczyk came by her calling thanks to a college epiphany. The daughter of a nurse and an air traffic controller, the Pennsylvania native enrolled at Penn State University with intentions of majoring in microbiology. But the work proved dissatisfying, she said, and she began looking for alternatives.

"I met these two (women) who taught kindergarten in Altoona, Pa., and I thought they were fabulous people," she says. "So because of them, I decided I wanted to teach kindergarten." That desire evolved to wanting to teach older children because "I didn’t want to sit and play on a little piano, which is what you did (as a kindergarten teacher) back then." She ended up majoring in sociology and education and landed a job in Maryland, in Baltimore County at a school called Fort Garrison Elementary.

She remained restless, though. After earning a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University, she moved into counseling and found herself at the old Grey Manor Elementary School in Dundalk, then at Colgate Elementary, Oliver Beach Elementary, and Holabird Middle School. She was named an assistant principal at Chesapeake Terrace Elementary School in Edgemere, but she missed counseling and found little time to spend with her son, Michael. She returned to counseling and eventually landed at Sussex.

"When I got to Sussex," Adamczyk says. "I found that I didn’t have that wandering thing anymore."

Mutual satisfaction

Today, Marti is a solid resource for Sussex, says Principal Bowser. "The many years of working as our school counselor have given Marti an invaluable insight into what our kids need," he says. "She understands what is needed beyond the academic needs, (and) she understands the ‘whole child.’ Children know she is there because she honestly cares about them, is there to help them, and she is enjoying the time she is spending with them."

Adds, Schwarz, "Beyond helping to prepare materials for my classroom, what Marti really enjoys is working with the students.  I believe this is very rewarding to her and very beneficial to the students." 

For her, the only thing that diverts Marti away from her volunteering at Sussex is tending to her family and her rescue dog, Petey. She will continuing monitoring students in Terri Schwarz’s classroom for now, helping with morning journals, and promoting the Volunteer Club. She will travel a bit, but her heart remains at the school on Woodward Drive. 

"If you want to stay active, and if you want to get a lot out of staying active," she says, "this is the place to be."     

Bowser agrees. "Mrs. Adamczyk is here because she loves our kids and our teachers," he says, "and they love her, too."

To learn more about volunteering in BCPS, visit  

For more photos, visit the BCPS Flickr site at

Story and photos by Charles Herndon, specialist, BCPS Family and Community Engagement.
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