Although Debra Anderson left the U.S. Army about 26 years ago, the Shady Grove Elementary School teacher still benefits from her four years in the service, as do her Burnet Consolidated Independent School District students.
“I really feel like it taught discipline and time management,” Anderson said. “Those are things that have really helped me as a teacher and things I try to share with the kids.”
Anderson served in the Army from 1991-94 as an administrative assistant, formally called a 71Lima in military occupational services terms. A big reason for joining the Army was earning money for college. The military offered the GI Bill as well as an Army college fund.
Like many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, Anderson learned a lot on her way to earning those college funds.
She went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic and advanced training before being assigned to Wiesbaden Air Base in Germany, where she spent the rest of her enlistment.
“I worked for a colonel and handled any secretary duties,” she said.
She also served as the colonel’s driver at times.
After leaving the Army as a private first class, Anderson eventually headed for Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas, where she earned her degree, something she did with minimal debt thanks to the Army. She’s since earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.
Anderson taught school for 14 years and is currently the interventionist at Shady Grove Elementary in Burnet. As an interventionist, Anderson works directly with students who need extra help in reading and math. This is her first year as the campus interventionist. Prior to that, she taught first grade and kindergarten.
Along with the college fund assistance and discipline, the Army offered a big lesson on working with others. In the military, soldiers work with people from all backgrounds and from other parts of the country, she said. Even with those differences, you learn to respect each other by working together. It’s one of the lessons she strives to instill in her students: having respect for those in authority as well as people working alongside you.
Another is how wonderful the United States is as country and place to live.
“Being in the military, especially being outside the country, I think it makes you appreciate what we have here,” she said. “I think we sometimes forget there are people out there protecting and defending this country every day. Those are some things I try to share with students.”