Cameron Gonzales, an expert educator with years of experience in the classroom teaching children of all ages from elementary to high school, is an education specialist who has instructed new teachers and earned a doctorate from Ball State University.
For the past 15 years, she has been working and living in different countries around the world for DoDEA, and currently, she is serving military students and their families as a Gifted and ESOL specialist in Cuba. All of this means that she is best-placed to understand the challenges of teaching in a DoDEA military setting.
Military-connected students are an extremely mobile population, undergoing lots of stress in their everyday lives. These factors often overflow into the classroom environment and this can present several challenges for their teachers.
Problems With Socialization
Children from military families are likely to move school and home quite frequently, and this means that they will have attended several schools in many different areas (and perhaps countries) before they even reach their teenage years. This doesn’t just involve change and disruption in their studies, it also makes it more difficult for them to form and retain friendships with their peers.
“Military-connected children often struggle to make a lasting learning relationship with their teacher,” Cameron Gonzales says. “This means that can withdraw visibly from teachers and friends since they know that eventually, they’ll need to move on elsewhere.”
For some children, this ends up causing problems in the classroom with challenging behaviors as children adopt different coping strategies to handle all of the change that they encounter. Teachers need to be ready to understand and find ways to deal with these behaviors so that the child can begin to feel supported and accepted, regardless of how long they spend in a particular location.
Assessment Is An Issue
When it comes to working with older military-connected children, assessment becomes more of a problem. Attending different schools can lead to a range of different curriculums and different subjects being studied. As a result, it can be difficult to assess their abilities. Teachers have to work extra hard to motivate military-connected students so they can catch up on their studies and engage with a varied curriculum in their new school.
The DoDEA Difference
DoDEA is one of just two school systems to be Federally-operated. Responsible for directing, planning, managing and coordinating all year groups from pre-kindergarten right through the end of 12th grade, their education programs are carried out on behalf of the DoD (Department of Defense). Globally positioned, DoDEA operates no less than 160 accredited schools in 11 countries and 7 states as well as Puerto Rico and Guam.
Cameron is one of 15,000 DoDEA employees serving almost 70,000 children of DoD civilian and active-duty military families. She plays a vital role as a Gifted and ESOL specialist, ensuring that every school-aged child from a military family will be provided with an outstanding level of education that will prepare them effectively for success, either in post-secondary education or in their chosen career.
“DoDEA schools give military-connected children a stable grounding on which to base their entire education, right through the school system,” Cameron says. “By giving young people a familiar school setting and a familiar curriculum regardless of where their family is posted, it’s possible to thrive and flourish in the education system.”
Cameron Gonzales has worked all over the world in DoDEA schools, including in establishments in Germany, South Korea and Italy. She is currently working in Cuba and is loving every moment of her exciting and challenging role.
“It’s my job to work with youngsters who have English as a second or another language.” She says. “This is a particularly demanding position, but it’s also an extremely important one. Since the children that DoDEA schools work with speak many different languages, it’s extremely important to ensure that there is a specialist in place who can make those children feel welcome, understood and at home regardless of which country they are currently living in.”
“This is where DoDEA schools prove to be so special. By providing a familiar environment and easily recognizable subjects in so many different locations, it’s possible to overcome many of the challenges that come with teaching military-connected children that teachers in the standard education system often encounter. Thanks to a specialized approach, it’s possible to ensure a world-class standard of learning and achievement for every military-connected child.”