By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)April 12, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Julie Moser is dedicated to her students. The elementary school counselor said she is constantly looking for ways to support her students, specifically the military children who come through her door.
"I want to figure out a way to best support the children," she said. "I think the hardest part for them is when their parent misses holidays and birthdays. I help get them through that and support them emotionally."
Moser said she and other counselors in Academy School District 20 have formed student groups for children of military Families.
But Moser wants to do more and Tuesday she joined more than 100 educators, counselors, administrators and military officials at the Elkhorn Conference Center for the annual Education Summit.
"I am so excited (event organizers) provided this for us," she said.
Moser said she was looking forward to hearing from local school employees as well as military personnel who shared their observations of struggles military children face and how community members can help.
Dr. Diana Sirko, deputy commissioner for the Colorado Department of Education, said teachers play a crucial part in a military child's support network.
"Teachers and schools are constants for children whose personal lives may be unpredictable," said Sirko, who served as the keynote speaker for the event.
She said effective teachers recognize issues military children face, including constant moves and parent deployments.
"Teaching is rocket science," she said. "It is so complex."
Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, provided the audience with statistics of military children in the United States.
"Over 2 million children have had a parent deployed over the past 10 years," he said during his opening remarks. "On average, a military Family moves nine times in a 20-year career.
They (children) may attend four to five schools before they graduate."
Throughout the daylong summit, educators participated in workshops addressing bullying, relationships between the military and local schools and resiliency.
"I am highly impressed that this event brought together leadership in the military and community as well as the people who experience this on a daily basis," said Mona Johnson, director, School Behavioral Health for the Office of Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health for U.S. Army Medical Command. "I love it when two sides come together like this."
Col. Robert F. McLaughlin, garrison commander, said it was important to bring educators and military officials together to understand each other's challenges and to develop strategies to help minimize those issues in the future.
"We need to collectively understand how military children are affected," he said.
Educators shared their strategies in combatting challenges in group discussions. Some local teachers said they created peer-to-peer groups, pairing military children together.
"Military kids tend to be more empathetic to new students because they know next year that could be them," said Susie Weiss, art teacher and military child liaison for Colorado Springs District 11.
In her final remarks to the audience, Sirko encouraged educators to remain vigilant.
"I think we do a great job with most of our children," she said. "But I think we can do a great job with all of our children."