Courtney Jarmon, veteran and WMS teacher

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From military to middle school - the path of WMS teacher Courtney Jarmon
Courtney JarmonServing in the military and teaching middle school are remarkably similar, says sixth grade science teacher Courtney Jarmon. And Jarmon would know -- she’s done both.

From 2007 to 2015 Jarmon served in the U.S. Air Force as a flight instructor. During her service she completed three deployments, two to Iraq and one split between Kuwait and Afghanistan. She was a captain when she began her first deployment. While exploring career options after the military, Jarmon found that teaching middle school came to mind. “I figured if I could teach new officers how to airdrop people and stuff going 200 mph and 300 feet off the ground, then I could teach middle-schoolers,” she said.

This is Jarmon’s fifth year teaching at Washington Middle School. The parallels between military service and teaching frequently occur to her. “It’s shockingly similar,” she said.

“When sixth graders start out, that transition from elementary school to middle school, that is very much like putting a person in an airplane,” Jarmon said. “They are scared to death. And those first couple of flight lessons and those first two weeks of 6th grade are very similar. It's a lot of reassurance: ‘you’ll be fine, this is gonna be fun. It’s gonna be great. We’re all really nice people.’”

Jarmon does a great job of making students feel comfortable and settle into middle school, former students say. Many of her former students choose to come back as eighth graders and work in her classroom as a teacher’s aide.

“Sixth grade was so fun but science with Mrs. Jarmon was one of my favorite classes,” said eighth grader Nora Saylors. “She made it so fun and easy to learn. Now, as an eighth grader, working as a TA for these sixth graders is so fun.”

In addition to gaining teaching experience during her service, Jarmon also honed the qualities of flexibility, quick thinking and a strong work ethic. “The military required me to be really flexible,” she said. “I don’t fluster, especially as a new teacher, the way I would have without military experience. They just prepare you for anything to happen at any point in time. So now when kids say stuff, or do stuff, or the schedule changes, I’m just like ‘yeah okay.’”

Like many veterans, Jarmon’s worldview was forever changed as a result of her service. “My military experience shaped me in big and small ways,” she said. “One big way is it gives me a great perspective on what a 'bad day' actually is. When things get tough, I just think about my worst day deployed, and I haven't had a day worse than that. So I've gained a unique perspective and resilience because of that. A small way is I can pack for a trip in about 10 minutes. I've learned over the years what you actually need, and what is just nice to have. Most things are just nice to have.”

Some of the lessons learned during her service are passed along to her students at Washington, Jarmon said. Particularly, a strong work ethic and commitment to putting forth a full effort.

“It’s the whole idea that there is a mission. In the Air Force, it’s mission first, people always. You do the mission and that’s the expectation. I come into teaching that way,” Jarmon said. “I tell kids if you give me 100 percent, the grade will work itself out. If every day you give me 100 percent then in the end, everyone’s happy. Because I feel like that’s way more important than getting caught up in the grade. It’s about building the skill set.”

Jarmon doesn’t just ask her students to give 100 percent. She gives them 100 percent effort right back. “One of the core values of the Air Force is 'service before self' and that has become my teaching philosophy,” she said. “For me, that means that everyday I show up and do my best for each student. My goal is to leave everyday and feel like each class got 100% of my effort. I will always think I could have done something better, but I never want to feel like I didn't give them my best. They deserve that.”

The commitment to giving 100 percent is necessary in both teaching and military careers, Jarmon said. “They are both a calling and the people who do best at them feel the calling. You have to love it so much to endure the hard parts. I think the people that succeed are the people that love it even during the times when it doesn’t love you back.”