2018-08-03 / Front Page

MILITARY TEACHINGS

Teacher tour enlightens educators
Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Jim Clifford shows local educators around Fort Gordon during a windshield tour July 27. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Jim Clifford shows local educators around Fort Gordon during a windshield tour July 27. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Educators and school administrators from across the Central Savannah River Area participated in Fort Gordon’s third annual “Tour for Teachers” July 27.

The tour helps foster relationships between Fort Gordon and local schools primarily by providing educators with information about the future of Fort Gordon, the vast array of jobs on Fort Gordon, and insight into assisting military students and their families.

Participants began their day with breakfast and briefings at Gordon’s Conference and Catering Center before getting on busses for a windshield tour and hands-on activities.

Col. Jim Clifford, Fort Gordon Garrison Commander, welcomed educators and praised them for the role they play in students’ lives, then delivered an overview of Fort Gordon.


Amy Marchant, Aiken High School computer teacher, receives assistance putting on gear in preparation for the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer during a Tour for Teachers event held July 27. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Amy Marchant, Aiken High School computer teacher, receives assistance putting on gear in preparation for the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer during a Tour for Teachers event held July 27. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office An established military installation that operates much like a city, Clifford said Fort Gordon would rank as the seventh largest city in Georgia with a supported population of about 94,000. And with thousands more due to arrive over the next few years, local educators will feel the impact in their classrooms and communities.

“It is a good problem to have,” Clifford said of the growth.

As the population grows and Fort Gordon’s mission becomes more operational and technical in nature, the need for a relevant workforce will also grow. Clifford told teachers that they play an important role in developing that workforce by teaching and encouraging students to excel in subjects like science, technology, engineering, math and cyber.

“The way we look at it from the military perspective is ... as we continue to move things together, we’re going to try to help each other out because it’s a symbiotic relationship,” Clifford said. “We want to give our kids the fullest opportunities that they can get their hands wrapped around and give them the best start they can have so they can be competitive.”

Clifford also touched on some of the challenges military children face and how teachers can make a positive difference simply by listening and gaining an understanding of those challenges.

One of the biggest challenges military families face is moving and changing schools.

Melissa Barrickman, Fort Gordon school liaison officer, said that on average, military children move six to nine times during their school career. That is three times more than their civilian counterparts, she said.

Frequent moves mean having to leave old friends and make new ones, adjusting to a new schedule and curriculum, and in some cases new grading systems and extracurricular activity requirements.

As the mother of two military children and former elementary school teacher, Barrickman understands the challenges firsthand.

She offered teachers suggestions on ways they can help alleviate some of the stress such as by keeping extra information on hand for students who arrive late in the year, by creating a buddy system linking new families up with ones that have been at the school a while, by encouraging parent involvement, and by communicating regularly with Fort Gordon school liaisons.

For teachers who have military students leaving, she suggested making something they can take with them to their next location.

“As you’re getting ready to say ‘goodbye’ to those military kids, make them a slideshow or a video tour of your school, or even a photo album of local things that have happened during their time with you,” Barrickman said.

Barrickman closed her presentation by emphasizing to teachers that military students are just children, much like others but with unique experiences and challenges.

“They want to fit in, and they want to be just one of your loved children,” she said. “I challenge you to get to know them, learn from them, and listen to their stories. You might be amazed at how they can enrich your classroom.”

Following Barrickman’s remarks, educators loaded on to buses for a windshield tour that included stops at the Engagement Skills Trainer, Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer, and Forward Operating Base Ready.

It was a day Amy Marchant won’t soon forget.

“To me, this has been awesome,” said Marchant, a computer teacher at Aiken High School.

Marchant said her experience at Fort Gordon was filled with enlightening information that she plans to take back with her to school. One of the biggest takeaways, she said, is that the military has changed dramatically over the years.

“It’s not mostly about shooting guns and blowing things up,” Marchant said. “If we don’t train our students in the IT field, we’re missing the whole boat.”

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