As 57 educators from Aiken, Columbia and Richmond counties filed into the clubhouse at Fort Gordon on Thursday morning, they were occasionally asked to move to different tables to make a point.
The request, made at the beginning of the installation’s Tours for Teachers program, represented the many times students in military families have to relocate, said Melissa Barrickman, a school liaison officer for Fort Gordon.
“This is what we call a permanent change of station and it happens quite regularly, but you won’t know when it’ll happen during my presentation,” she said as the attendees shuffled to new tables.
Barrickman said the program introduces local teachers to the military setting and some of the issues families have to cope with.
“This is just one more way that we can partner with the local educators by bringing them out and exposing them to what happens here on the installation, and by giving them an understanding of who their children are,” she said.
According to Barrickman, most students whose parents are active duty can move up to nine times.
“It’s difficult to move and it’s difficult to make new friends and be in a new location,” she said.
Barrickman said the tour works as a bridge for educators to get those students connected.
“The number one goal for teachers is to help get them acclimated to the school, and to learn about the area that they’re living and feel connected because we know all children do better if they are connected,” she said.
As part of the tour educators participated in a simulated live weapon training and learned about different equipment used by military police in training their dogs. The group also shadowed military personnel in classrooms.
“We wanted to make it fun,” Barrickman said as educators lined the floor for the live weapon simulation. “We know that they are getting ready to pack up and head back into their classrooms to kick off a whole new academic year so we wanted to not only show them what military and everyone do, but also to reconnect them.”
Tami Ray, a teacher at Cedar Ridge Elementary School in Columbia County, said the tour brought more perspective on the military environment and how it affects some of her students.
“It is giving me a better understanding about how the children feel with moving in and building relationships, and that’s actually something that we are trying to do at our school” she said.
Ray said she plans to incorporate some of the day’s activities into programs for the upcoming school year.
“I started a mentoring program with the sailors from the Navy last year and we are continuing that and hoping we get to expand that this year,” she said ” So it’s a very exciting time for our community.”
For Vikki Gaillard, a former 4K teacher at Greendale Elementary in Aiken County, who brought her teenage daughter Olivia along for the tour, the day’s events brought relevance to the challenges and protective components that children of military parents require.
“When we are teaching students we always look for challenges but also protective factors and a child of a military family has both of those,” she said. “And it may be a lot of the pro- tective factors that many of our students in our disadvantage schools don’t have, but some similar challenges as well.”