Educator of the Year

January 16, 2018

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined attending a military-based high school. Shoe shining, drills, commands, and wearing a Navy-issued uniform daily, were all things I never envisioned to be part of my academic journey. Adjusting to a new high school, unfamiliar people, and different customs was challenging in its own respect, however, the military aspect was a downright foreign concept to me. The first day at the Delaware Military Academy left me questioning my choice of attending a school where I was only acquaintances with a few incoming freshman. Upon exiting my bus which was late for the first day of high school, I became overwhelmed when my newly shined shoes touched the pavement. The military concept intimidated me, and it became unclear if I had made the right decision for myself. However, those fears and second guessing my choices ceased once I had the opportunity to learn about my Naval Science Instructor, Master Sergeant Howie.

At first glance, I could tell Master Sergeant Howie was unlike any other teacher I had ever encountered. He is a presence with his 6’7” frame and a uniform that embodies precision. Therefore, one could empathize why a 5’0” Seaman Recruit, the lowest rank in a Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program, would experience apprehension looking him in the eye. During the first class cadets were “encouraged” to share a brief introduction about themselves, after which he would do the same. Master Sergeant Howie presented his expectations for us as individuals and as a platoon. He explained the importance of always putting forth our best effort in everything we do to reach our full potential. He reassured the class that he knew we would make mistakes, but more importantly we would learn from those mistakes. He forewarned us that he would push us to work even harder, which might leave us feeling angry, but to channel those feelings toward self-improvement. “If you study as hard as you can each night for a test and you get a C, I'll be happy because you tried your best,” he said. Master Sergeant Howie possesses the ability to engage everyone during his teaching, and he often retells stories about his time serving our country as a Marine, which always concludes in a life lesson. Regardless of the lesson or topic at hand, he motivates his cadets to remain engaged and encourages us to not only think about what we are learning but to put it into perspective for ourselves and the world. His class is not just about military drills and the armed forces of our country; his class is about building character and preparing us for our future.

In stark contrast to the news reports of global instability and conflicts, I feel safe in the environment created in Master Sergeant Howie’s class. He instills discipline and responsibility among all cadets, whether it is during drill or time in the classroom. He has established a non-judgmental atmosphere for cadets to speak out and explain their thoughts and opinions during a lesson. Whenever a cadet shrugs or responds with, “I don't know,” to one of his questions, he waits for a real answer by pushing cadets to step outside of their comfort zones. Master Sergeant Howie precludes his students from missing opportunities or not using their voice when they have one by stating, “I won't leave anyone behind”. This statement applies to lessons covered in class and to real life events. For example, if he is covering a lesson too quickly and someone does not grasp the concept, he will reintroduce the lesson until they gain an understanding. During an emergency such as a fire, he will make sure everyone is accounted for and has taught us how to react when someone is unresponsive and in need of assistance. His concern for our safety has helped me adjust and build trust in the environment and my peers.

What touches me the most about Master Sergeant Howie is the degree of caring he possesses for his students. He has impressed upon us that he not only cares about our academics, but just as importantly about our individual and collective wellbeing. Whatever interests a cadet pursues in athletics, the arts, or community, Master Sergeant Howie will make every attempt to attend and support that individual. Cadets struggling with personal pressures or issues inside or outside of school are told, “We are a family,” and can turn to him as, “His door is always open”. Moments like these helped me develop a unique trust and connection to a group of people I initially did not know, but now consider friends and peers. Master Sergeant Howie has conveyed a strong sense of caring and support not only through his words, but more importantly through his actions.

The Delaware Military Academy is not an average school, Naval Science is not a typical class, and Master Sergeant Howie is not a mainstream teacher. I am grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity to be one of Master Sergeant Howie’s students. His words and actions continue to inspire me to embrace the importance of simply being a good person with strong convictions. He has carefully constructed a solid foundation for all of his students to strive for success, build a strong character, and carve a successful future for ourselves. For these reasons and many more, I nominate Master Sergeant Howie as Educator of the Year.

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