Kansas State University dean, instructor recognized at White House
Friday, April 22, 2016
MANHATTAN — A Kansas State University dean and an instructor were recognized at the White House on April 13 for their work with second lady Jill Biden's Operation Educate the Educators.
Biden invited Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, and Sandy Risberg, instructor of curriculum and instruction, to participate in Operation Educate the Educators: Sharing Successes and Setting Sights for the Future.
Risberg served on a panel that included one representative from each of the program's four pioneer institutions — Kansas State University, Old Dominion University, George Mason University and University of Southern California. As part of the panel, Risberg explained the efforts Kansas State University has taken in preparing future educators to serve military-connected students.
Since signing on to the program in 2011, 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.
• 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.
• Spiraled concepts from Operation Educate the Educator 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.
In Biden's remarks to Operation Educate the Educators stakeholders, she publicly thanked Mercer for participating in the event and also for facilitating the previous week's discussion with Kansas State University pre-service teachers and faculty at Fort Riley Middle School on April 6.
"The work that you are doing — that your student teachers are doing in the classroom — is so important. Thank you," Biden said. "Not only does it make a difference in the life of each and every student, but, as you can imagine, it means so much to our service members when members of their community reach out to support military families during deployments."
Jess Holliday, a senior in secondary education-social studies, Soldier, who is student teaching at Fort Riley Middle School, was featured in a video that was shown at the event. The video is available at http://bit.ly/1XKhNHT.
"The big thing I think for me personally is this focus on building relationships with your students, because we've talked about how the outside world impacts students' lives in the school," Holliday said in the video. "The Educate the Educators program is important because not only does it help teachers connect with military-connected kids, but it's going to help them connect with all kids."
Mercer said Biden's commendations about the College of Education are actually an accolade for the university as a whole.
"This program is indicative of Kansas State University's embracing of military-connected students, because while the College of Education is preparing teachers, the entire university has a welcoming atmosphere for veterans transitioning out of the military," Mercer said. "The event was affirming, and it energized me to strategize how we can take this program to the next level."
Some of those next steps under consideration:
• Coordinating military-focused coursework pieces to build on each other so student-teachers are optimally prepared to positively impact student learning for military-connected students.
• Prioritizing continuing education related to Operation Educate the Educator for faculty within the college.
• Making the school counseling program more systematic and robust.
• Expanding the use of recent findings from Kansas State University's military initiative standing committee, which had a discussion in March with K-12 school leaders from across the state.
"Military-connected students are a special and unique population," Mercer said. "If military-connected students are in a school system where the teachers understand, are supportive and build that type of culture with other students, it's better for everybody involved. That's what we want to create at Kansas State University."