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Nancy Lewis, assistant principle at La Contenta Middle School in Yucca Valley, Calif., takes part in a group activity during the Exploring Military Culture course August 12 at the Combat Center’s Building 1707. Lewis, a native of Woodstown, N.J., was taking part in the teacher to teacher workshops sponsored by the Department’s of Education and Defense Education Activity in collaboration with the Morongo Unified School District.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary J. Nola

Combat Center hosts local teachers for conference

12 Aug 2008 | Lance Cpl. Zachary J. Nola

In collaboration with the Morongo Unified School District, the Departments of Education and Defense Education Activity hosted teacher to teacher workshops for practicing California educators Monday and Tuesday at the Combat Center’s building 1707.
Anne Muse, chief of partnership development, DoDEA partnership branch, said in the early months of last year Marine Corps leadership approached DoDEA and asked them to work with the Combat Center and MUSD.
The Department of Education was also part of the effort because a memorandum of understanding was created between the Departments of Defense and Education June 25 in order to better prepare communities and school districts for military student growth.
Before the workshop began, members from the Department of Education and the MUSD joined forces to decide on which courses would be offered at the two-day event. The MUSD then worked with the Combat Center to provide the conference with a venue.
“It was a team effort starting with Brigadier General Spiese and his staff, and the staff at the Morongo Unified School District,” said Dave Price, MUSD’s director of student services. “Both organizations realized we’re stronger working together than we are working separately.”  
The Department of Education offered courses in areas such as supporting the emerging writer, science and mathematics strategies for limited English proficient students, building reading fluency, and mastering multiplication and division, while DoDEA offered courses like exploring military culture.
“Some courses are interactive, some are more formal presentations,” said Carolyn Snowbarger, director of the teacher to teacher initiative at the United States Department of Education. “All are 90-minute sessions which are content based.”
Snowbarger said the workshops are taught by practicing teachers and administrators with stellar professional records and who came from Virginia., Washington D.C., Arizona, Oregon, and Maryland.
“America’s best teachers are our trainers,” said Snowbarger, who has more than 20 years of classroom teaching experience.
While the subject matter ranged from creating a data-driven learning community to writing in the content area, many of the courses focused on mathematics.
“Math is an area that all states are struggling in,” said Price, a native of San Bernardino, Calif.
The MUSD chose to make math a major focus in order to fight the math struggle and to make the subject area a higher priority among schools in the MUSD.
Price said state academic standards in math have already risen and will continue to rise in the near future. The MUSD chose to use the teacher-to-teacher workshops as a preparatory effort to better prepare the district’s teacher and student bodies for new standards, which may soon make algebra a required course.
Muse said while the teacher-to-teacher conference hosted at the Combat Center is the eleventh hosted this year; it is only the second to include courses which cover basic military knowledge.
The first was held in Lakewood, Wash., and positive results were seen, added Muse.
“We lit some fires in some teachers and counselors, and they are passionate about doing their part,” said Muse. “The teachers appreciated the professional development.”
Teachers participating in the two-day conference also had positive things to say about the workshop.
“It’s invaluable,” said Cynthia Enfinger an English teacher at Twentynine Palms High School and National University. “This is really valuable because of the military connection and the community.”
Enfinger, who has taught for 28 years and is the wife of retired Staff Sgt. Ken Enfinger, said the military culture workshop was very informative for educators with no military experience and provided attendees with a lot of insight.
Yvonne Cosio, a 3rd grade teacher from St. Jeanne De Lestonnac School in Temecula, Calif., said the military knowledge given to those in attendance was very interesting and would be useful at her school because some members of St. Jeanne’s student body have parents deployed to Iraq.
“It’s good,” said Cosio, who has no prior military relationship. “It’s been beneficial for sure.”
In addition to providing teachers with new information, the workshops also provided educators with the opportunity to share personal experiences, advice and teaching methods so their respective student’s may benefit from their cumulative experience.
Learning to use different strategies will enable teachers to meet the needs of all students and better prepare them for the future, added Muse.
“We look forward to working with the Morongo Unified School District and the leadership here to continue the partnership and look for ways to provide more support,” said Muse.
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