WASHINGTON — Teachers are vitally important to military readiness, the Army’s top civilian official said today during a ceremony recognizing the top teachers in the Defense Department’s worldwide school system.
Army Secretary John M. McHugh hosted the 2011 Defense Department Education Activity’s Teacher of the Year and District Teachers of the Year recipients at the Pentagon. McHugh applauded their achievements, underscoring the impact teachers have on the lives of military children whose mother or father may be deployed.
“Setting the Army standard is more than a bumper sticker. It’s about readiness,” McHugh said. “The last thing we want is to have that soldier [who’s deployed] in harm’s way having to worry about their children in school.
“They don’t have to,” the secretary continued. “You folks always do a great job taking care of young people.”
The annual Teacher of the Year program highlights the significant role that DoDEA teachers play in students’ lives and the contributions they make to the quality of life for military families, particularly the stability and consistency they provide during times of deployments and separation. District teachers are selected after being nominated by a parent, student or colleague. There are 191 schools and 14 regional districts within the DoDEA worldwide school system. The DoDEA Teacher of the Year is chosen from the pool of district winners.
Angelica Jordan, a second- and third-grade Spanish teacher at Mannheim Elementary School in Mannheim, Germany, is the 2011 Heidelberg district Teacher of the Year and the DoDEA Teacher of the Year.
“There are so many fabulous teachers out there, and the only reason that I’m here today is because I’ve been able to watch my colleagues and collaborate with them and become a better teacher because of them,” Jordan said. “My job as Teacher of the Year is to glorify all of the fabulous teachers out there who are doing a great job with students.” DoDEA teachers, she said, are true professionals with an important mission. They are specially trained to understand the challenges of being a military child. They’re also trained to help children deal with stress, she said.
“DOD teachers are experts at welcoming brand new students into the classroom and wishing them farewell when they [move],” she said. “Military teachers understand that, often times, we’re it for that kid. A parent may be deployed in harm’s way, and the parent that’s home is working and taking care of the kids and doing everything they can to keep it together for that year.”
Jordan taught at-risk youth in Minnesota for nine years before making the change to DoDEA. She began to realize the special needs military children may have with frequent relocations and parent who are often deployed, she said.
Teachers help build communities, Jordan explained, noting the need for a strong community isn’t as evident anywhere else as it is for the military. “I felt truly called to be part of the military community where I can make a difference in the life of a child, because I felt like I could understand their worries and fears about losing a parent,” she said. “Their parents could be deployed, and they may or not come home, and I can really relate to military kids, because I was missing a parent.” Military families can always rely on DOD teachers, Jordan said.
“When the kids come to our classroom, they deserve to be loved and respected and cared for,” she said, “and when kids come to DoDEA schools, they need to know that it’s going to be consistent, that it’s going to be the same every day, and that they are going to be cared for.”
Receiving the award is a humbling experience, Jordan said. But meeting McHugh and other officials during the groups’ Pentagon visit also is something she’ll always value, she added.
“It was humbling to walk through the halls and listen to the stories of 9/11 and how that impacted people here,” Jordan said. “It really gives you an opportunity as a Department of Defense teacher to realize that I am part of more than Mannheim Elementary School, that I’m a part of more than DOD Europe. I’m part of a huge system that’s here to support the teachers, and my primary role is supporting military families.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)