On April 13, The White House hosted an event for educators around the country to highlight and integrate existing knowledge about military-connected K-12 students. During the conference, Michele Stites, an assistant professor of education, shared her research in a working group on ways to better educate teachers to help them support military-connected students and their families.
Stites was invited to the event as the White House recognized her for work to build awareness for military-connected families and research to identify how teachers and therapists can better meet the needs of these children and their families. Stites is an expert in early childhood education and has conducted research on preparing educators to work with students with special needs, military-connected children, and inclusion.
In her working group at the Operation Educate the Educators conference, Stites identified common stressors on military children such as geographic mobility and parental separation and discussed the importance of providing support networks for students when a parent is deployed or when students need to transition between schools.
Stites also stressed the importance of meeting the needs of military-connected students through training for educators about military deployment cycles, lifestyles, and providing information about resources available to military families.
“We need to make sure we are supporting military families and work with teachers to help them better communicate with families, anticipate deployments, and identify what we can do to help,” Stites explains. “We can’t provide all of the answers, but we can help provide resources and be more responsive to families’ needs.”
In additional to panel discussions, Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. addressed educators at the conference, which brought together higher education leaders from institutions such as Tufts University, University of Minnesota, University of Southern California, and Texas A&M University, among many others.
Earlier this year, Stites published research on how early childhood teachers perceive the educational needs of military dependent children in the Early Childhood Education Journal to help illuminate gaps in current scholarship about military-connected children. To learn more about Prof. Stites’ research, visit the education department website.