Roswell to Afghanistan to Japan: One soldier's journey to the next generation

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Photo by Steve Parker
Photo by Steve Parker

Roswell to Afghanistan to Japan: One soldier's journey to the next generation

by: Steve Parker | .
Sullivans Elementary School | .
published: June 11, 2014

Yokosuka Navy Base, Japan Richard Atkinson, a talented educator and former soldier from Roswell, New Mexico is teaching the children of United States Navy service members at The Sullivans School in Yokosuka, Japan. 

Atkinson moved to Roswell, New Mexico as a second grader.  He attended Washington Avenue Elementary School, Sierra Middle School and Robert H. Goddard High School graduating in 1982. Atkinson eventually earned a teaching degree and taught at Berrendo Middle school before deploying to Afghanistan with the 920th Engineering Company. Atkinson still remembers his send off from Berrendo with fondness, “The school sent me off with a bang. Guest speakers, sentimental speeches from students and faculty, representatives from the Army National Guard, and a reporter from the Roswell Daily Record were all there to send me off. Something I'll never forget.” After Afghanistan, Atkinson was hired by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) and eventually ended up teaching 5th grade at The Sulllivans. 

Students in Rick Atkinson's class capped off their academic year with a project based learning experience that used their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. The students designed the perfect pre-teen hang out spot by building their very own local mall. They spent two weeks drawing floor plans, creating detailed directories, and building landscaped architectural models of their vision. Everything was designed, drawn out, and built to scale using mathematical formulas and graph paper for their floor plans.

The students planned parking garages, common areas, two different types of elevators (service and pedestrian), escalators, as well as restroom access for their multilevel shopping malls.  Students also planned which of their favorite fast food, retail, fashion, and sports stores would open locations in their mall. Students used logos from their favorite stores and internet technology to download the company's trademarks.

The students then organized the models, floor plans, and designs into a presentation to pitch to their teacher, Mr. "Moneybags" Atkinson on the commercial viability of their mall. Everything was organized into a 4 minute do-or-die graded presentation that was polished and professionally delivered to their peers and other classes using smart board technology.  Atkinson stated, "They really took the bull by the horns. I have been continuously impressed with their enthusiasm and their ability to work together to get the job done.” Joellerose Fababier , one of Atkinson’s students said, “It was a wonderful experience but very stressful. There was a lot to do and very little time to do it.”

DoDEA Pacific provides a comprehensive preK-12 education to the children of military and eligible civilian personnel families serving throughout Asia. The 50 schools in DoDEA Pacific are composed of more than 23,500 students and 3,400 professional educators and support staff. The schools are geographically organized into four districts: Guam, Japan, Okinawa and South Korea. The Sullivans School is the largest school in DoDEA with a student body of approximately 1200 in grades K-5.

Tags: Education
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