by SMSgt. Paul Mann
National Guard Airmen and Soldiers have unique connections to their communities, connections that stretch beyond the gates of their bases.
One such connection is that of a teacher and student, or in this case, Airman and students.
When in uniform, Staff Sgt. Megan Schreder performs the duties of a services craftsman for the 168th Force Support Squadron, part of the 168th Wing at Eielson AFB in Alaska. When Lessons Learned Alaskan Air National Guard Airman exercises lessons learned in and out of the classroom Schreder is out of her camouflage uniform, she dons the uniform of a 5th-grade teacher.
Schreder is starting her third year of teaching, her second year as a 5thgrade teacher. “[When} I found out I was teaching fifth [grade last year], I was very excited…I love this school,” Schreder says. “The staff and administration are amazing. It makes me love teaching more.”
She teaches at Arctic Light Elementary School, located inside the gates of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, which is collocated with the city of Fairbanks. All of Schreder’s students have a mom or dad, and sometimes both parents, who currently serve in the armed forces.
“With my kids I definitely talk to them a lot about the fact that I’m in the Guard,” Schreder says.
“That’s so cool Ms. Schreder, do you fly airplanes?” ask some of her students. She is quick to respond, “no,” and to explain that there are different jobs in the Air Force, but acknowledges that her connection to the military helps these kids connect with her — especially at this school.
“Having that connection, that I’m in the military and their parents are in the military, really helps them warm up to me,” Schreder says.
During the school year, Ms. Schreder is homeroom teacher to roughly 25 students, and with the exception of physical education or music, provides all of the lessons for her fifth-graders.
Schreder feels her service with the Air National Guard helps foster a better understanding with community and school members, particularly those who do not have any direct ties to the military.
“We are a more traditional school, they’re in here the entire day…I have them from the moment they’re at school until I let them go at the end of the day,” Schreder said. Which might help explain how she walks about 10,000 steps a day, Schreder almost never stops moving as she’s teaching.
“Scientists have identified about 2 million types, species of living things on Earth,” is heard coming from Schreder’s computer as it begins to play a ‘life science’ lesson. Schreder follows along and quizzes the schoolchildren during the lesson, “wasn’t that one of our test questions?” she asks.
“I told my commander…that things I learn here at drill, I use in my classroom, and things I use in my classroom, I use here at drill,” Schreder says. “I’ve definitely seen Megan mature since she first enlisted,” says Master Sgt. Claudia Cen, 168th FSF services noncommissioned officer in charge. “She was a very naïve teenager when she got here, and now she’s an amazing teacher and role model for our new Airmen.”
During regularly scheduled drills, or RSDs, Staff Sgt. Megan Schreder supervises two services journeymen. Along with other members of the FSF, Schreder and her Airmen help unit members prepare for their fitness tests, work lodging issues, and of course train.
“Megan has impeccable military bearing,” Cen says. “She has so much patience with our Airmen.”
The teacher side of Staff Sgt. Schreder is well known by her peers and subordinates, “especially when we run PT tests, people are like, ‘I can see the teacher side of you coming out,’” Schreder says.
“When we’re reading the verbal instructions for fitness assessments, and people are talking, I tend to walk near them as I’m reading, as a sign like, ‘she’s probably waiting for me to be quiet,’ and that actually still works for adults, which is kind of funny,” she says.
Back in her classroom last spring, Schreder was getting her students ready for the question section of their science block of instruction, but as kids tend to do, they’re all talking. “If you’re talking when I’m talking, you are not helping yourself, you are not helping others,” Schreder tells them.
The 5th-graders respond quickly, and Schreder starts the lesson, asking one of the students to start reading. Always looking for opportunities and challenges, Schreder recently applied for and interviewed for a commissioning opportunity within the wing, and was selected as force support flight officer.
Lt. Col. Kelly Mellard, 168th Force Support Flight commander says, “I have complete confidence in Megan’s leadership skills. She has the respect of her peers and Airmen, and has already proven herself as a leader in the services flight.”
“We are excited to see her take this next step in her professional growth, knowing that she will make an excellent officer,” Mellard says.
SMSgt. Paul Mann is with the 168th Wing at Eielson AFB