From the very beginnings of my educational and vocational learning experiences, I was deeply committed to encouraging and assisting the development of emotionally healthy young learners and leaders. I was intently interested in creative and unique implementation of organizational change, diversity, creativity, innovation and leadership.
For over 25 years I have been deeply committed to creating urban, suburban and rural learning environments that encourage the creative potential in children, youth and adults. I have worked in a large and widely varied number of environments and settings to focus on the mission of positively impacting multi-ethnic communities by leading and coaching students and families in their holistic fitness potential (the physical, the emotional, and the educational realms of their development.) I have been able to draw kids out of a linguistically challenging and tumultuous upbringing in ESL learning environments, drawing on and challenging their unique experiences to enhance their own personal and educational development in and out of the classroom environment. I have been an innovative and compassionate champion for At Risk urban youth who face many diverse challenges within their learning and home environments, successfully bringing together families and peers in group learning situations beyond the classroom walls. I have personally seen successful outcomes, increased attendance, improved grades, and specific literacy goals achieved and maintained, with careful and conscientious application of a hands on, realistic and holistic learning approach, working with the "whole" child, adult and / or family, rather than only the actual "learner" concerned. I feel that I have been very effective in my teaching and approaches to learning and instructional methodology, thinking "outside the box" in almost every instance and helping to create a nurturing, healthy and cooperative experience for many students and learner families over many years. I am proud that many of my former students and families still stay in touch and / or communication contact with me, as well as refer others to me for additional teaching, tutoring, coaching and mentoring.
I am passionately engaged in diverse learning strategies incorporating such issues as personal and organizational change, emotional health, creativity, innovation, fitness, multi-ethnic reconciliation, the power of teamwork, and leadership.
I was deployed to several war torn areas during my Active Duty tours for the Army. In many cases, operating as military liaison Non Commissioned Officers as well as Commissioned Officers, we were faced in our daily duties with many far beyond that which we were trained for nor expected to encounter on a daily basis. For 6 weeks straight, each day at the crack of dawn, on the dirt floor of a severely damaged skeleton of a building in a yet to be secured area of our complex in Riyadh, a "bedraggled" group of children waited patiently for my company's staff and cadre to arrive. These children had been waiting for over 6 hours on the first day we were to arrive, to begin this effort, to see the "Americans" come to "teach us." Our mission in this outlying city near a very active Province border crossing was to help the young Saudi children learn how to purify water and sterilize food and cooking utensils with no materials or resources available other than those we carried in ourselves. Windows and doors that used to provide privacy and security for these buildings, homes, and schools, sacred places of learning, had been shattered or burned, and were now utterly devoid of recognition as places of safety, warmth and support. If anything could make this place identifiable, it had been reduced to ashes. But the objects and the devastation all around us were not what made this environment what it was. It was the experience we had there with these incredibly grateful children, youths and families. It was the people. They were students, and they were waiting for a teacher. They only sought a connection, a viable and peaceful relationship that could indeed teach us all something incredibly valuable about life. I and those with me on this "humanitarian mission" did not know the effect we would immediately or even temporarily have on these students, families and Saudi citizens, but it was tremendous. We made many errors in our attempts to bring viable tools, skills and knowledge to these families, knowing very little about the hierarchy and family order within this culture, but we did indeed learn quickly, through our Arabic translators, faith professionals and humanitarian "in-country guides" what techniques, cultural awareness methodologies and learning approaches were best in this situation, and most effective to effect change, awareness and education. We could have been far more effective learning far more, earlier on, before we ever entered the area, or the country as a whole. However, we did not have what we viewed as the "luxury" do so as we would normally have tried to, due to the incredible urgency and complexity of our multiple tasks and missions at hand. I know that I and my colleagues would learn more, learn faster, and utilize many more "in country" citizens and soldiers to help us acculturate more effectively given the situation to be improved upon again. And we did. We transferred information, knowledge, experience and more intangible lessons to our peers and "next generation" soldiers and staff each time we returned, and for this effort and true "education" I am forever grateful. We learned far more than we ever taught in these missions.
"All of the assumptions we had about teaching and education were shattered, just like that," we often said to one another, back home, at "peace" and "at ease" in our home country. We had gone to this war torn country with altruistic motives and compassionate intentions, to help rebuild their education and change their lives, we thought. We found, however, that they changed us.
That experience really brought home for me how much and how often we take for granted what we are truly blessed by with the education opportunities in our country. When our precious children and family members are dropped off at or are picked up by bright shiny yellow school buses each morning, each week, we know they will be in a safe environment. That's not true everywhere and it is sobering to see the devastating opposite in a world not so different from our own. The eye-opening multicultural experience shared by all soldiers and soldier families, worldwide, is an important factor in our success as educators and community members; contributors to society as a whole. We are given the gift of humility, sensitivity and incredibly insight to diversity. It and experiences like these open one to new learning styles, techniques and approaches, and deep appreciation for what different students bring to the classroom. We create bridges and pathways in this experience, strengthening bonds, rather than tearing down borders. Creating and cherishing a rich mosaic in the classroom, learning environment and community is invaluable. “Pathways” is what my colleagues and I called our official mission, although the military and government had a far different nomenclature for it. Our own reference, to us, suggests the improvement is not over when one program is completed, but rather, students will continue to seek out challenging experiences and learning opportunities of their own after we are long gone. We departed feeling they would.