SGM-A Instructors Partner with West Point for Training

By Andrew SmithJune 3, 2024

The value of continued education and training has long been known and practiced through the Army, especially at the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence.

Recently four instructors from the Sergeants Major Academy including SGM Michael Wahl, Mr. Galen Thomas, Mr. Cregg Cannon and Mr. Manuel Atencio attended a class at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA), West Point, N.Y.

The class the group attended at USMA was the Master Teacher Program (MTP), a two-year distance learning class on faculty development designed to help attendees build knowledge, skills, and abilities that ultimately lead to enhanced learning, and in the case of educators, enhanced teaching. The class was based off the book “Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can do About it,” by James Lang. The book discusses the challenges of teaching students in modern social settings, which provided content for the subsequent writing of several papers about the book and other materials presented.

Atencio said he became involved in the class with help and support from the SGM-A leadership. “The SGM-A has been working to establish professional relationships with outside academic institutions,” he explained. Chief of Education, Guillermo DeSantiago, contacted some other institutes in the Department of Defense that included West Point “DeSantiago met virtually with West Point’s, Col. Ben Wallen (Associate Dean for Faculty Development) and explored cross-training opportunities. Wallen offers two programs, the Master Teacher Program and Project Management Professional Program to Department of Defense personnel.” Through this contact and with recommendations from each department head, the four instructors were enrolled in the MTP class.

Atencio’s reasons for participation were numerous including a personal willingness to expand his teaching skills, to increase confidence in leading, to enhance professional and curriculum development, and ultimately improve student outcomes for his own classes. He said completing the class left him with a great sense of personal satisfaction.

“The program allowed me the opportunity to reflect on how I run a classroom day-to-day. The result is a deeper understanding of instructional strategies which will help with mentoring students, curriculum development, and administrative requirements,” said Atencio. “I enjoyed sharing best practices and experiences with the folks in the program. As a lifelong learner, the new knowledge gives me satisfaction knowing that I am growing both personally and professionally.”

Thomas, another Sergeants Major Academy instructor who participated in the training, had different reasons for attending the course over the past two years. “I applied what I learned from the MTP to enhance my teaching skills at the SGM-A this year. I also engaged in some self-reflection and increased my self-awareness before each class. For example, I remain conscious of ‘change blindness’ since I teach the same curriculum annually."

He added that it is important for instructors and teachers, to remember that self-reflection is a powerful tool for growth and improvement. By continuously evaluating their best practices, “We can create a positive learning environment that will impact the students’ learning experience and outcome.”

After completing the class the instructors all have more informed insights into modern challenges in the learning environment and how to address them.

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