McHugh: DOD Teachers Vital to Military Readiness

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)

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