(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Team Redstone has a message for Tennessee Valley educators -- we want to work with your students, our future workforce.

Educators from Huntsville, Madison, surrounding counties and private schools paid a visit to Redstone Arsenal Aug. 1 for the annual Back to School professional development opportunity, which gave teachers a glimpse into what happens behind the gates, and how it applies to their classrooms and students, who one day themselves may be working on post. The tour made stops at the Missile Defense Agency, the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"We're excited about exposing teachers to STEM related fields so ultimately they will be able to connect what they're teaching with what we offer and bring their students back to see what the possibilities are for careers and just to expand their knowledge in those STEM related areas," said Barbara Williams, youth education and support services director for Child, Youth and School Services. "Having been a teacher, you're always looking for resources to help your students, and Redstone is just phenomenal in the resources that we offer."

That was exactly what Tommy Archer, a teacher with Huntsville Middle School, was looking for.

"I could not wait to see the resources and excitement here at Redstone Arsenal," said Archer who teaches entertainment technology, essentially, gaming, to students.

The teachers' first stop, MDA, gave them a glimpse into how the largest employer on the Arsenal protects the nation and its allies through ballistic missile defense in space, sea and on land. MDA employees explained to educators how BMDS works, why it's important to test, and how their employees prepare, before inviting them to reach out to the organization throughout the school year to engage their students. About 100 people with MDA volunteer with STEM outreach.

"We greatly appreciate everything that you are doing to help build our workforce," said Doug Deason, with MDA.

Garrison commander Col. Bill Marks echoed those sentiments during his Team Redstone briefing that kicked off the day.

"You guys are just as much a part of Team Redstone, you're as important as any of our partners," Marks said.

The Back to School professional development opportunity is just one of the many ways that Team Redstone partners with local educators and school systems to ensure what lies behind the gates is not a mystery to students, but rather, a motivating factor when it comes to their studies.

"Education is a top priority for the Garrison and Team Redstone, because not only do we want today's students to be our future workforce, but we want to recruit the best and brightest to work at Redstone, and those people want the best and brightest education programs for their children," said Megan Gully, with Garrison public affairs and education outreach. "To be a community of choice we need to partner with local organizations and our school systems to share all the great resources this community has to offer."

Last year's Team Redstone education outreach efforts include the inaugural Back to School professional development day tour, classroom speakers and demonstrations, field trips, Veterans Day speakers, science fair judges, Read Across America Day, JROTC Day, Garrison quarterly education meetings, which bring leaders from both on post and in education together for dialogue, summer camps and more.

"We are looking to take the resources and opportunities we have on Redstone and really connect them with the classroom," Gully said. "It is so important that we expose students to the careers and opportunities on Redstone so they understand why STEM matters and what great jobs they can have if they work hard."

To aid schools in knowing the full scope of what Team Redstone has to offer, the Team Redstone Education Outreach Catalog was created in 2012, listing the many ways tenants and organizations across the installation are able to interact with local students, such as through classroom visits or onsite tours. New to this year's catalog is a Community Partners section.

"We reached out to community organizations that have education missions and invited them to have a page in the catalog," Gully said. "We want the catalog to be an all-encompassing resource that any teacher in the Tennessee Valley can use for their students, so it makes sense to expand outside Redstone's gates and to include as many organizations and outreach programs as possible.

Joining the 2014 catalog: The Arts Council, Huntsville Museum of Art, J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College, Military Child Education Coalition and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Any organization that offers education outreach is welcome to submit a page. Contact Gully at 876-4161 for details.

"We want to keep growing and expanding the Community Partners section with more organizations and opportunities for teachers to get those extra resources," Gully said. "We found that a lot of teachers just didn't know these resources were available, and that is what we want to change."