Jill Biden, Second Lady and co-founder of Joining Forces, was at Fort Riley April 6 where she visited local schools and complimented Dean Debbie Mercer on being an early adopter of the Educate the Educator initiative.
In an interview with “The Today Show” about her visit, Biden said she appreciates the way teacher preparation programs are embracing military-connected children.
“Teachers’ colleges have stepped up to educate people going into education so that they will realize that there are military children in their classroom and celebrate those children and make their transitions easier for them,” Biden said in the interview.
“I’d like to take a moment to thank Dean Deb Mercer, from Kansas State University, for being here today and facilitating last week’s discussion with the KSU student-teachers at Fort Riley Middle School. The work that you are doing — that your student-teachers are doing in the classroom — is so important. Thank you.”
The College of Education’s Office of Innovation and Inspiration found an innovative way to thank area teachers for their military service by surprising them with an Education Salute award during class.
The teachers who received the awards on Sept. 30 were Manhattan High School’s Ed Chandler, David Jordan, Pat McKinney and Eunice Rivera. Tonnie Martinez, assistant professor and coordinator of the Office of Innovation and Inspiration, developed the ongoing program as a means to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge many teachers bring to the classroom.
Martinez invited two officers from the Big Red One to help present the awards. They were First Lt. Anthony Magallanes and First Lt. Jessica Deason.
“A lot of the students in the classes looked like they had no idea that their teachers even served,” Deason said.
According to Martinez, that was exactly the point.
“Teachers bring an amazing amount of talent and experience to the classroom, but they rarely talk about themselves because they are so humble,” Martinez said. “It was so great to see the expressions on the students’ faces because they truly had no idea the types of missions their teachers had been on. Many of those students will look at their teachers in a whole new light.”
The Colleges of Education and Human Ecology are hosting the K-State Military Education and Family Initiatives Symposium on March 11 at Riley’s Conference Center on Fort Riley. The event costs $15 and includes lunch.
This conference-style event will focus on local school and community partners and the issues related to better serving all military-connected students, including children of military families, veterans, military spouses, etc. Topics such as college and career ready standards, training school counselors, the impact of multiple combat tours on learning, transitioning from soldier to student, financial behaviors of military members, and the impact of trauma and PTSD on spouses and families will be discussed.
The four presenters from the College of Education are Jane Fishback, Ashley Gleiman, Judy Hughey and Sandy Risberg. In addition, there will be a number of subject matter experts from the College of Human Ecology who will also present.
K-State’s College of Education was one of the first 100 Universities to join Operation Educate the Educator, an initiative that is part of Joining Forces developed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.
Operation Educate the Educator is a nationwide initiative to better support military families by including military-connected students in the definition of diverse populations.
Sandy Risberg, instructor in the department of curriculum and instruction and subject matter expert as a military spouse and parent, explained the benefits. “By including the military child as a diverse population, the faculty will have a better opportunity to train preservice teachers about the military child’s lifestyle and address their unique needs,” Risberg said. “This will also enhance the faculty member’s ability to teach the preservice teachers in the course who are also military-connected. It’s a win-win situation.”
Last semester, Risberg arranged a visit to Fort Riley for curriculum and instruction faculty, including a tour of a model home, elementary school and middle school teen center. “Our faculty needs to have a good concept and connection with the culture and lifestyle of the military-connected student to educate future teachers.”
Risberg is conducting professional development sessions such as “The Military-Connected Child in the Classroom” at area schools. It provides teachers with a glimpse into the culture of the military child and family, the social-emotional cycle that mirrors the deployment cycle, and strategies that can be used with students in the classroom to build resiliency.