FORT LEWIS, Wash. - The children of military families face challenges - and opportunities - not experienced by other students. Local educators met last week to learn how to deal with those facets of life in military families.

The Clover Park School District hosted a workshop for local educators at the Lakeview Hope Academy and Elementary School in Lakewood Aug. 4 and 5, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Defense Education Activity.

"This 'Teacher-to-Teacher' workshop has been an ongoing endeavor for about five years now," said DODEA Chief of Partnership Development Ann Muse. "We work with local communities that share a relationship with military installations and have a partnership between them and schools in the area."

Typically done over summer break, the program has built a cadre of presenters to travel across the U.S. providing teachers resources and education about military culture, community, and how military children are affected by their parent's professions.

DODEA works with School Liaisons in the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation to reach out to school districts surrounding military installations and bring them into the fold, establishing and building on relationships to better meet the needs of Army families.

"It's all about the kids," said FMWR Youth Education Support Services Director Norma Melo. "It's about producing good citizens for this country and providing another level of support for our military families."

During the military related workshops, teachers from the civilian community are introduced to military culture and given an insight into what it means to be a member of the military, and more important, what it means to be the child of a military member.

Workshop attendees were also introduced to the SOAR, or Student Online Achievement Resources program, which is an Internet-based application offering parents tools to participate in their child's education; children tools to get a better education; and tools to teachers to better educate the children.

While talking with a group of teachers, Dr. Carmen Marino of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, Child and Youth Services Directorate, explained the military deployment cycle, among other challenges facing teachers with military children.

Marino and others covered several techniques used to address academic, social, behavioral and emotional levels, like sending positive expectation messages, establishing safe environments, and helping students make connections with other students and teachers.

"You can see a significant difference between military kids and regular kids," said Marino. "Generally, they have less discipline and tardiness issues and better testing results - but for the first time we are noticing military kids a bit frazzled."

Marino attributed the rise in "education challenges" to the war on terrorism and multiple deployments. In response to current challenges, the DODEA and Department of Education are working to take action to best meet the needs of children in military families.

"I think this training affirmed a lot of what I know," said Kara Monroe, and instructional facilitator at Carter Lake Elementary School, " as well as a lot of information I wish I knew in my first year of teaching.

"One of the biggest things I didn't know was what to do with kids that weren't being taken care of at home, and I'm glad to see they are covering that here," she said.

About 185 teachers from the local area participated in the voluntary workshop.

Capt. Michael Greenberger works with the I Corps Public Affairs Office at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Page last updated Fri August 15th, 2008 at 12:22