This post is part of Coffee and Conversation, a monthly interview series that highlights impactful, interesting work affecting Tennessee education. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is the relationship between the military and national security in general and education?
Anne Haston: A strong well-equipped military is vital to today’s defense. Especially in today’s work when we have so much technology – today’s soldiers and airmen are much more educated. The requirements for their jobs have changed so much with cyber missions and new technology. Education is a really big piece to being able to service in the military.
How does your organization, the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), help military families?
AH: The Military Child Education Coalition is a nonprofit that focuses on the military child’s educational experience. They create programs to support the military student and the parent and they have a professional development series for educators. It’s important that [military students] receive additional support because military families move on average every 2-3 years and a child can attend 6-9 schools on average. During all those times of separation, especially deployments, they can go from an A student to a B or C student.
Are there things that schools and teachers should think about when they have children making that transition?
AH: Without program-creation, if the teacher can just be sensitive to the fact that a new student needs to be connected to other students right away. Because the last thing you want to see is a student eating alone in the cafeteria.
But MCEC creates programs like that – the student-to-student program is specifically about transitioning students – not just military, but any students that are new to a school – partnering them with another student so they can make friends more quickly. They also have parent-to-parent programs that educate the parents on how to best help their child – from how to prepare for pre-K to how to fill out that FAFSA. Many of those programs go hand in hand with the Tennessee Promise, the Drive to 55. We have been in conversation with state leaders with implementing programs for Tennessee.
Your husband is a military general. Did you go through any of these challenges that military families face?
AH: [Laughs] I have been married to the military for 35 years. We have had the benefit to see what it’s like to be an active duty, a traditional Guard family, and a full-time National Guard family. It’s good we have all three perspectives.
Our military child was in middle school when his dad deployed to Iraq – he did not want anyone to know about it. If the child is in elementary school there is a lot of talking about it, but in middle school, they don’t really want to be the center of attention. It is worrying. These children grow up spending more time paying attention to the nightly news than your average child.
SCORE had an event on the connection between military and education issues – what do events like that do for the conversation in Tennessee?
AH: Anytime we come together to work collaboratively, that inspires us to keep moving forward. Our military service members truly value education for themselves and their children. We also noticed that several that attended the SCORE summit in December were really pleased to learn things they didn’t know before. We’re looking to keep moving that conversation forward with the AIM High TN initiative. It’s a new partnership to raise awareness of the importance of high-quality education and aligned assessments and it is also to raise awareness across the state about what a big military student and family state we are.
Finally, what’s your go-to work day pick-me-up?
Ginger turmeric tea – but if I’m being really bad – it’s a chocolate mocha.
Anne Haston serves on the Military Child Education Coalition’s Board of Directors. As a child and youth education advocate since 1997, and as first lady of the Tennessee National Guard since January 2010, Mrs. Haston focuses most of her volunteer time on the ‘force behind the force’ – the military child and family. She currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Tennessee Expect More, Achieve More Coalition, and is President-elect for the Knoxville Region University of Tennessee Alumni Association Network Board. She is a mentor for the Tennessee National Guard Youth Action Council and serves as the Military Child & Family Liaison for the Knox County Council PTA. She is married to Major General Terry “Max” Haston and they have one son, Travis, a recent college graduate, and one shelter rescue dog, Harley.