California Educator

February 2013

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> PROFILE Jonathan Stamper teaches his physics class about vectors during an outside activity. I T E AC H A L I T T L E D I F F E R E N T LY��� A new scene for Sergeant Stamper B Y S H E R RY P O S N I C K - G O O D W I N PHOTOS BY SCOTT BUSCHMAN When Jonathan Stamper hears complaints about working late or taking on additional duties, he chuckles to himself. These are good problems to have. Just three months ago, this Palos Verdes Peninsula High School chemistry teacher was in Afghanistan dodging bullets and clearing explosive devices from villages. It wasn���t his first tour of duty; there was a year���s stint in Iraq before being redeployed less than a year later to Afghanistan. The U.S. Army Reserve sergeant���s six-month stint in Afghanistan was spent in the Civil Affairs Department, where he tried to imbue villagers with economic survival skills such as fishing, growing plants besides opium poppies, and distributing looms to women (via female soldiers) so they could clandestinely support themselves by weaving. He worked with U.S. and Afghan soldiers clearing IEDs (improvised explosive devices). He didn���t engage in combat, but spent time in combat zones. ���It was tough and traumatic and there was always a sense of danger,��� he says. Now that he���s back in the classroom, Stamper doesn���t sweat the small stuff. He opens his classroom blinds so he can drink in the sight of blue skies and trees, which seem miraculous after living in a dusty, dry environment. A newfound appreciation for education and freedom shapes the teaching of this Palos Verdes Faculty Association member in many ways. 42 California Educator February 2013 because my lessons usually relate to survival or something I���ve used in the military. I discuss the need to get the job done right because it could mean life or death; to show your work when you submit answers; the importance of communication with other civilians. I worry more about safety: I tell kids to keep their goggles on and be careful around the flame. I care about them and don���t want them hurt. Before, when kids asked dumb questions, it was irksome. Now I say, ���Ask anything you want.��� I am more patient. I V I E W L I F E D I F F E R E N T LY��� I drive slower and don���t worry if I���m late. I���m not looking at my e-mail all the time. When my administrator wanted to come in and observe my class after I had just come back, I didn���t panic. I thought, ���Oh well, it will be fine, the sun will rise tomorrow.��� I A P P R EC I AT E E D U C AT I O N M O R E��� and feel a passion to tell kids how lucky they are to go to school. I talk about that girl who was shot by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school. To me, she���s the ultimate hero, and I���d love to shake her hand. I���ve had a few young ladies in my class following that story, and they understand there are people whose lot in life is much worse. O N E P OW E R F U L L E A R N I N G E X P E R I E N C E I N A F G H A N I S TA N��� was putting on a burqa. It was such an icky feeling. I could just feel the oppression. I donated it to my school���s drama department in case they need it for plays. A N OT H E R P OW E R F U L L E S S O N��� was seeing how family-oriented the Afghan people are and how much they love life. They love to eat, laugh and sing together. When a civilian was killed by an IED, the surrounding community came and adopted the kids within days. I was humbled to see such a sense of family and community spirit. O N E L AS T T H O U G H T��� I value life so much. I���ve seen so much death and ugliness. I treasure my students. They are like my family. I���m so glad to be home.

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