Veterans Day: A Time for Reflection and Appreciation

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I welcome guest blogger Mary Weller, HCPSS Secondary Science Coordinator. Mary has been with HCPSS since 2010, and became a science educator after serving in the U .S. Navy.
Veterans Day: A Time for Reflection and Appreciation

By Mary Weller, HCPSS coordinator of Secondary Science

Veteran’s Day is an important day for every American. For those of us who have served in the armed forces, it can be a special time of reflection on our military experiences and the impact those experiences have had on every aspect of our lives.

Education is my passion and my life’s calling, and I believe no other profession carries more impact than that of a teacher.  But while it has been quite a few years since I last boarded a naval ship, I still consider the work I did during my years in the military to be some of the most important work that I have ever done. Those experiences shaped my life in countless different ways.

I joined the U.S. Navy during the Cold War era. I felt it was an important commitment to make for my country, and military service offered many great opportunities that were less accessible to women in other fields at that time. As a young surface warfare officer, I had huge responsibilities and had to make decisions that could literally be matters of life or death. Most civilians don’t realize just how much responsibility is on the shoulders of very young people in the military. Those experiences gave me the confidence to take on more of life’s challenges, and they give me greater perspective in dealing with many of the non-life threatening decisions of everyday life.

My naval service also opened my eyes to many cultures, influences, and experiences that were far beyond anything that I had encountered. As I discovered the world, I learned more about myself, and realized that teaching would give me opportunities to open my students’ eyes to the infinite wonders of science, and help them grow and discover just as I had done.

Many veterans work here in Howard County schools, including many who served far longer and in more dangerous settings than I did. I am awed by their sacrifices, and deeply grateful for their decision to take time from their lives to serve others.

Increasing Engagement By Focusing on Strengths

I am excited to have a guest post today from HCPSS Coordinator of School Counseling Lisa Boarman. Lisa has been in education for almost 35 years and with Howard County for 25. Below, she reflects on Howard County Public Schools’ successful professional development training with Gallup, an initiative that’s a created an energizing strengths-based culture in the district.


LisaBoarmanPhoto_web_250Increasing Engagement By Focusing on Strengths

By Lisa Boarman, HCPSS coordinator of School Counseling

Do you get to use your strengths every day? Many people have to drag themselves out of bed each morning because they go to a job where they’re not using their strengths. Using your strengths every day is critical to engagement and productivity. It’s not rocket science but in a school setting, an engaged teacher will create engaged students, which will ultimately impact student achievement. According to Gallup research, students become less engaged as they progress through school. Howard County Public Schools is partnering with Gallup to increase staff and student engagement to reverse this trend.

In August, I had the opportunity to attend a three-day training at Gallup headquarters in Washington, D.C. to become a Strengths Coach. As part of the training, we took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 to identify our five dominant talents. What an eye opening experience! Gallup says that a strength is the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity. The key to building a strength is to identify dominant talents, then complement them by acquiring knowledge and skills pertinent to the activity. I am fortunate that I work in an environment where I get to use my strengths every day. My number one strength is Maximizer. Being a Maximizer means that I am committed to excellence. I focus on what is strong and work around what is weak. I value quality as much as quantity. I want to take things from good to great. If you ask my colleagues if this strength is accurate for me, they would chuckle because it’s SO accurate. I’m constantly looking for ways to exceed the current standard. I don’t waste time fixing weaknesses. I always want to do my best! Discipline is another one of my strengths. I love to make lists and stick to them. Focusing on my personal strengths is empowering

Since the training, our school counseling leadership team, including our secretary, has taken the StrengthsFinder 2.0. We display our top five strengths on our office doors with a brief description of each strength. Knowing each other’s strengths helps us work more efficiently and effectively. One of us has Arranger as one of her strengths, which means she’s skilled at putting all of the pieces together to get the best results. Another team member has Harmony as one of her strengths. She always tries to find a point of common agreement in any situation. As we work as a team, we try to take on responsibilities that allow us to utilize our strengths. It’s amazing how much more satisfied you are with your daily work when you get to use your strengths. On the rare occasions that I don’t get to use my strengths during the workday, I go home feeling exhausted and drained. The next step is to help students understand their own strengths. This year, our counselors will be rolling out StrengthsExplorer® in Naviance and we’ll be training counselors on how to use the results with students.

Since attending the training at Gallup, I find myself looking for ways to help people identify their strengths. Focusing on strengths helps all of us to be more productive and more engaged in our work, and learning about strengths has energized me and makes me excited to go to work each day. Try using your strengths every day and see if it makes a difference for you.