Posts Tagged DoDEA
By Lisa Daniel
Common Core Standards, No Child Left Behind, STEM, differentiated teaching, merit pay. Keeping up with the latest policies, ideas and buzz words in education is enough to make parents’ – along with more than a few educators’ — heads spin.
That’s why it was a special treat when I got to speak about these trends with Angela Wilson, who traveled here this week to meet Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and conduct other official business as the Department of Defense Education Activity’s 2012 Teacher of the Year. Read more here.
Wilson has been a key player in national education issues since being awarded the honor last spring, along with other Teacher of the Year winners from each of the states and territories. Since then, Wilson has traveled several times to meet with national education leaders and work on projects to advance teaching, while bringing those experiences back to her seventh-grade language arts and speech students at Vincenza Middle School in Italy.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Wilson said. “It’s really opened my eyes to what’s going on in education around our nation. As teachers, it’s easy to get stuck in what’s happening in your classroom and not looking beyond that.”
Wilson has met with President Barack Obama, whose sister, like Panetta’s, is a teacher. She’s also had conversations with Dr. Jill Biden, who remains a teacher even as she is second lady, as well as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other public officials. She has attended education conferences and participated in initiatives and met with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, creator of www.icivics.org, and Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who spent a couple of hours speaking with teachers at the Educational Commission Conference in Atlanta last summer, Wilson said.
“He met with all of us individually … and wanted us to tell him what’s going on in our schools and how he could help,” she said of Gates. “He wrote down what we said,” then Wilson and four other teachers were chosen to be recorded for a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation video.
“That was really neat that he would turn our thoughts into a video” to advance education, Wilson said. “His goal is to make America one of those really competitive educational societies like it used to be.”
Reports that American students’ standardized test scores are falling below those of their international peers are unsettling, but Wilson said she believes the nation is on the cusp of reversing that trend, in part due to the rapid push for new initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
When Department of Defense Education Activity Director Marilee Fitzgerald last week proclaimed teacher support a top priority, as many school systems do, I wondered how even the best intentions would trickle down to teachers thousands of miles away.
Then I spoke to Laurie Arensdorf, a first grade teacher at Vogelweh Elementary School, Germany, and I knew.
Arensdorf had just gotten home from her first day back to school – students would start a week later – when she returned my call seeking input about the new school year from a teacher’s perspective. I asked how a teacher might feel supported and how important that is.
“I’ve gotten that feeling already!” she said. “Our principal must have talked for 10 minutes today about the value of us, and how valued we are in the school.”
Vogelweh Principal Sandy Meacham “has always been like that,” Arensdorf said. But the level of support was so strong, “I had a sneaky suspicion it was also coming from higher up.”
“I really do think we are heavily supported,” she said. “In some ways, I feel like a spoiled child. I get everything I need. Especially at my school, I know I can go to the administration with anything I need and they will support me.”
Clearly, the message had gotten through that not only do principals have to have their teachers’ backs, but they have to communicate that, as well.
It was the perfect “welcome back,” Arensdorf said of the start of her second year at Vogelweh. She also taught fifth grade in Okinawa, Japan, for 13 years. “I’ve really hit the jackpot at my school,” she said.
That feeling of support, as Arensdorf explained, comes mostly from the local level – from principals and parents – but it helps to have the full weight of the school administration directing it.
“The main thing is that I feel valued, then I can take that feeling to my class and they feel happy and valued,” she said of the end result for students. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
Department of Defense Education Activity’s schools have been on a roll lately with high achievement of both teachers and students. Now that the 2011-12 school year is behind them, students, teachers and parents have much to be proud of.
The latest recognition goes to math teacher Spencer Bean at Baumholder Middle-High School, Germany, who has been chosen to receive the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching here June 27. Read more here.
Bean is the kind of teacher parents hope their children will have in school: high-energy, innovative and focused on individual student success. The motivating force for Bean is that he loves his work.
In his 13 years of teaching, he said, “I’ve rarely ever missed a day of work; I just love it that much.”
Like many high-achieving students, Bean said, he had to be talked into teaching. He was a math major and, already married in college, wanted to earn a good living. He considered going into accounting or some other business area.
Bean had the good fortune of having a mentor who advised him to go into something he was passionate about, and a brother – an Air Force officer based in Germany – who told him that, for teachers, DODEA’s pay, benefits and opportunities for travel are hard to beat.
“With public schools, … it’s a tough thing to do to say you’re going to be a teacher,” Bean said. “You have to be really motivated. DODEA can definitely have the best and brightest because of what they offer financially.”
Defense Department schools have demonstrated success in many ways lately. In April, Angela Wilson, a 7th grade language arts teacher at Vicenza Middle School, Italy, represented DOD schools as one of four finalists in the annual National Teacher of the Year competition here.
In May, Anuk Dayaprema, a seventh-grade student at Vincenza Middle School, represented DOD and State Department schools at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and Dominik Muellerleile, an eighth-grade student at Wiesbaden Middle School, Germany, represented DOD and State Department schools in the 24th annual National Geographic Bee here.
In June, DODEA celebrated its first graduation – of three students – of its Virtual School, a high school that serves students through technology to get required courses they otherwise wouldn’t be able to take. And, DODEA offered live streaming of its graduations where many parents are deployed.
There are many reasons to celebrate Defense Department schools. Bean is just the latest example of a school system that does so many things right.
“I’ve never regretted it,” Bean said of his decision to become a Defense Department teacher. “I’ve loved it ever since.”
Posted by in Family Matters on August 9, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Aug. 9, 2011
Nearly a year ago, I made the move from Virginia to Maryland and enrolled my children in their new school.
As in past moves, I immediately ran up against some school-transition roadblocks. My son wanted to join the after-school science club, but had missed the sign-up dates by a long shot. And since she wasn’t there for testing, my daughter had to wait months before she could be considered for an honors program.
These issues were an inconvenience, but since we don’t move that often, I figured they wouldn’t have a lasting impact.
It’s a different story for our military children who move multiple times over the course of their parent’s military career. One lost semester of an honors program due to missed testing dates may not add up to much, but how about six or eight missed semesters?
Fortunately, an interstate compact is helping to address these transition-related concerns for military parents. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children affects everything from school enrollment and eligibility to course placement and graduation. Since its inception in 2006, 39 states have adopted the compact, ensuring inclusion of nearly 90 percent of military children and teens.
The compact addresses military parents’ common concerns such as records transfer, which often takes weeks or months to occur. This delay in records transfer can cause a delay in course and program placement. Under the compact, however, schools must transfer records within 10 days.
The compact also requires the gaining school to presume students are qualified for an honors program if they were in a similar program in another school and there’s space in the gaining program. Students still can be tested, but won’t lose valuable program time in the meantime.
To ensure students have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, the compact requires schools to waive the deadlines or, if those dates are steadfast, to find an alternate way for the student to apply, such as taped auditions.
The compact includes many other provisions for military students, including those from National Guard and Reserve families. Parents and school officials should educate themselves about the compact, particularly as the new school year draws near, advised Ed Kringer, director of state liaison and educational opportunity for the Pentagon’s office of military community and family policy. And if they hit any roadblocks, he added, parents and guardians should talk to their local school liaison officer.
The big-picture goal of the compact, he said, is to alleviate parents’ education concerns and to keep families together. He would like to avoid situations in which the families choose to stay in one place while the service member moves to another to avoid school transition issues.
“That’s not what we want. … We don’t want to keep families apart,” he said. “We surely don’t want them apart because they’re worried about their children being put behind because they have to transfer schools.”
For more on the compact, read my American Forces Press Service article, “Interstate Compact Eases School Transitions” or visit the Department of Defense Education Activity’s website.
Posted by in Family Matters on June 6, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
June 6, 2011
I attended a high school graduation ceremony Friday night that blew mine right out of the water.
Upon the announcement of her arrival, the students and their families stood and cheered for several minutes as she walked onto the stage.
The first lady said it was an honor to help celebrate the Quantico seniors, and praised the military teens’ resilience and strength as they grew up in a time of war, dealing with the combined stress of multiple moves and deployments. “I think that all of you are incredibly special,” she said.
After her remarks, the first lady stayed to help hand out diplomas. She gave each student a big hug and a few words of encouragement before posing for a picture with them.
Between the first lady and their graduation, the students seemed a bit awestruck after the ceremony as they walked into the lobby.
Ashtyn Morgan was in tears but told me they were tears of joy. “It was wonderful,” she said, and it’s all hitting home now.”
Classmate Tiana Bernal said she was surprised when she found out the first lady would be there. And the speech struck a chord with her, she said, especially when the first lady talked about military kids having to move frequently. Bernal has moved four times during her dad’s military career, and one of her classmates has moved 18 times in as many years.
Nearby, class valedictorian Brannon McKee Niblock, daughter of Marine Corps Col. Lester Niblock, embraced her family and friends. Like several of her classmates, Niblock plans to pursue a life of service, and is headed to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in the fall.
I asked her what the first lady told her on stage after she received her diploma. “She told me to ‘do great things,’” she said.
Brannon’s 14-year-old brother, Walter, scored a hug from the first lady as well. The teen called her an inspiration. “She took time out of her day to come here,” he said. “It’s something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”
In the opposite corner, nine students posed for a picture together to mark their new bond. These students were from Defense Department high schools in Japan and had left with their families after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit in March.
Alexa Remington Lazar of Nile C. Kinnick High School in Japan said it was tough to leave her school before graduation, especially since the Junior ROTC unit she commanded there just received a distinguished unit award. But Quantico embraced her and her classmates, she added.
Tonight she was all smiles as her family crowded round to congratulate her. Her father, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chuck Lazar, had just arrived from Japan two days earlier after staying behind to assist with humanitarian efforts there.
Lazar said he was impressed with the first lady’s knowledge of what military kids go through.
As for his daughter, “I’m still in shock,” she said. “I got to hug the first lady.”
Posted by in Family Matters on March 22, 2011
March 22, 2011
The Department of Defense Education Activity has established crisis centers to assist parents of its students and employees who are affected by the voluntary relocations from Japan and Bahrain. The centers are accessible by phone or email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Other sites include the operational status of DODEA schools in Japan and information on school delays or closures in Bahrain.
If you’ve been affected by the relocations and would like to share your story or pass on information, please don’t hesitate to write in.
By Elaine Wilson
Jan. 11, 2011
An Air Force officer’s Antarctica-based blog is bringing science to life for students from the Department of Defense Education Activity and a Maryland elementary school.
The blog’s author, Lt. Col. Ed “Hertz” Vaughan, was stationed in Antarctica for 50 days in support of Operation Deep Freeze, the military’s support of National Science Foundation Research. He wrote about his day-to-day experiences of living and working there in the blog “Dispatches from Antarctica,” which is featured on the Armed With Science website.
John Ohab, who coordinated this series for the Defense Department, shared Vaughan’s posts with students and science teachers worldwide and asked them to submit questions to Vaughan.
Ohab then passed on their questions to Vaughan, whose responses will be featured in three posts on Armed with Science this month. Questions submitted by Arnold Elementary School in Arnold, Md., already are posted and questions from DoDEA students will be featured today and Jan. 14. Read the rest of this entry »