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Idaho educators get an up-close view of military life

By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur | 124th Fighter Wing, Idaho Air National Guard | Aug. 13, 2019

GOWEN FIELD, Idaho – The Idaho Military Division collaborated with the Idaho State Department of Education on Aug. 9 to host Educator Day at Gowen Field.

Idaho educators spent the day learning how several Idaho Military Division programs help prepare students to achieve and shape their futures.

The one-day event gave more than 30 Idaho teachers and administrators the chance to learn about the unique career and training opportunities, benefits, incentives, family support programs and intangible skills the Idaho National Guard offers.

"I was interested in this program because I see the potential in many of my students," said Wendy Venable, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Kuna Middle School. "Some students need to see all career options that may be more feasible than college, while others can take advantage of the tremendous benefits the Guard has to offer for college-bound students. Some of my students come from non-educated, low-income households that do not see college as a realistic possibility. What I have learned today is that the Idaho National Guard has something for all types of students."

Sherri Ybarra, superintendent of public instruction, joined Maj. Gen. Michael J. Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho, for the program's opening ceremony.

"I have tremendous respect for teachers and educators," Garshak said. "I hope that they gained an increased awareness today for the opportunities the Idaho National Guard provides young men and women beyond high school."

Throughout the day, educators toured Idaho Army National Guard and Idaho Air National Guard training simulators, facilities, vehicles, aircraft and other military equipment, including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the UH-60 Black Hawk and the M1 Abrams Tank.

In addition, educators received short briefs covering the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and Family Programs, which support members of the military, veterans and their families. Participants also learned about scholarships and education benefits the Idaho National Guard offers Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen.

"The Guard and some of these programs are a great opportunity for these kids," said 1st Lt. Warren Hull, 124th Aircraft Maintenance Officer and a pre-engineer, the computer science teacher at East Junior High in Boise. "Often the really book-smart kids will struggle a little bit in a nontraditional classroom and the kids that don't fit the academic mold do really well in my hands-on classroom setting."

This seminar highlighted the Idaho Military Division's educational programs. During the school year, hundreds of fifth-grade students from Treasure Valley Title I schools participate in the division's STARBASE program, which provides students with hands-on STEM training.

The Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy, located in Pierce, provides 16-18-year-old students who have dropped out or are at risk of doing so, with a second chance to complete high school with their peers or earn a GED. More than 1,300 students have participated in the program over the past five years.

"A great teacher can change a student's life," said Senior Master Sgt. Milo Davis, Idaho Air National Guard Recruiting and Retention superintendent. "An informed teacher can affect virtually every aspect of their students' lives by teaching them the important life lessons that will help them succeed beyond term papers and standardized tests."

The event was the first time the Idaho Military Division invited educators to spend the day on Gowen Field.

"I am always looking for opportunities to build partnerships," Garshak said. "The Idaho Military Division supports Gov. Brad Little's priority of providing a great education for our youth so that they can live, work and raise families here in Idaho."