Jill Biden meets with Kansas State University students, faculty at Fort Riley
Friday, April 8, 2016
Jill Biden discusses the strengths and challenges of educating military-connected children with Kansas State University pre-service teachers and faculty at Fort Riley Middle School on April 6.
FORT RILEY — Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, met with Kansas State University pre-service teachers and faculty at Fort Riley Middle School on April 6 to discuss her Joining Forces initiative.
During her visit, Biden, who earned a doctorate in education, highlighted the educational partnership between Fort Riley and Kansas State University as part of Operation Educate the Educators, a progressive effort through Joining Forces to bridge the gap between teachers and military families.
"Dr. Biden's desire to see her program's impact firsthand within the College of Education and the schools on Fort Riley is a clear indicator of her background as a professional educator," said Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education. "This program has presented amazing opportunities for future teachers to better understand the social-emotional needs of military-connected students in a powerful way and how schools can better support these kids. This was a wonderful experience for our students, something they will remember for the rest of their lives."
To celebrate the Month of the Military Child, Biden talked with several K-State pre-service teachers about the importance of building relationships with military-connected students, who face unique challenges in regard to familial transition, mobility and other issues.
Biden invited Mercer to participate in a follow-up event, Operation Educate the Educators: Sharing Successes and Setting Sights for the Future, April 13 at the White House.
"The event will give me tools and ideas to bring back to K-State for the development of our plans and resources to prepare educators for a diverse classroom," Mercer said. "I look forward to gaining information and strengthening K-State's relationship with Joining Forces."
In 2011, Kansas State University became one of the first 100 universities in the nation to sign on to the program. Mercer said the program was a perfect fit, as it complemented the a 25-year partnership with schools in Geary and Riley counties, which have high concentrations of military-connected students.
In response to Biden's initiative, the College of Education created a documentary, "A Walk in My Shoes: Military Life," featuring veterans, military spouses and military-connected children who share intimate details about their lives and what they wished their teachers would have known about them as they advanced in the P-12 school system.
The university also established a noncredit class, Teaching Military Connected Students, which offers future employers evidence that they are prepared to educate and build relationships with military-connected students.
Additionally, The College of Education has spiraled Educate the Educator concepts throughout the curriculum. For example, when discussing students from diverse backgrounds, professors and pre-service teachers explore the strengths and challenges military-connected students bring to the classroom.
While students at Fort Riley Middle School are visibly military-connected, there are other military-connected children, some whose parents serve in the National Guard or other divisions, in every school district in the United States.
"It's important that we identify military-connected children so that whether teachers are working on a military post or in a public school system, they are aware of who those children are, what they might be going through and how they can best meet their learning needs," Mercer said.
The Kansas State University program started with focusing on teachers, and it is now expanding to the university's leadership and school counseling programs to ensure that everyone who is preparing to work in an educational environment is knowledgeable about military culture.