School of EducationMS-A1720Hamline University1536 Hewitt AvenueSaint Paul, MN 55104
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When Mike LeMier steps into the classroom on his first day as a high school history teacher, he will be able to share plenty of his own experiences with his lucky students.
In addition to being a Hamline student pursuing a degree in social studies education, Mike is a member of Minnesota’s Army National Guard and has been deployed for yearlong stints in both Afghanistan and Kosovo. “Since junior high, I’ve had an interest in teaching,” says Mike. “My love of world cultures and history really solidified when I was overseas, and I know I’ll be able to bring those experiences to the classroom someday.”
Mike came to Hamline from South Range, a small Wisconsin town on the shores of Lake Superior. He chose Hamline because it combined a competitive football program with great academics. “I visited a number of times,” remembers Mike, “and I decided that Hamline is where I wanted to be.”
In February 2003, halfway through his first year, Mike joined the National Guard, excited at the opportunity to serve his country and see the world. He completed basic training in Georgia that fall and returned to Hamline for J-Term. “I was able to balance academics and my military commitment,” he says.
In February 2004, Mike was activated for duty in Afghanistan. He spent a full year in the country’s southwestern corner, providing security and reconnaissance assistance. These responsibilities meant a lot of patrols and interaction with local police forces—and also the opportunity to chat with Afghanis. “By talking with locals, we were able to hear their perspectives,” recalls Mike. “They knew we were trying to help.” A watershed moment for Mike was when he helped secure polling places for Afghanistan’s first national election. “It was amazing to see a country that had been so fragmented begin to unify,” he reflects.
Two years later, Mike was sent on another yearlong mission—this time to Kosovo, where he served as a peacekeeper between Serbs and Albanians. While there, Mike’s commanding officer spearheaded a unique initiative: Each of his seven-man squads would “adopt” a nearby school. The pre-K through eighth-grade school Mike was assigned to, however, was skeptical. Other organizations in the past had made promises that couldn’t be delivered, and at first the school was reluctant to talk to Mike’s squad. “We brought what we could—cleaning supplies and brooms—and made a point to really talk with teachers, students, and the principal,” Mike remembers.
While deployed, Mike stayed in frequent contact with his Hamline academic advisor, Dr. Steven Jongewaard. Upon hearing about Mike’s initiative, Jongewaard enlisted the help of the Hamline Education Club and local businesses, including Target and Office Max. In the end, Mike’s squad received eight huge boxes brimming with school supplies. “When we brought the supplies to the school, they went crazy,” laughs Mike. “There was a line of kids helping us carry them into classrooms.” Even after the delivery, Mike’s squad remained close with the school, having tea and lunch at the principal’s home. “This was a defining moment for me,” says Mike.
Fortunately, explains Mike, Hamline was extremely supportive while he was deployed. He stayed in email contact with professors and with the university’s administration, who helped him register for classes while abroad. “It was a bit strange to transition back to college after being deployed, especially the first time,” remembers Mike. “I was one of the only veterans on campus.” His transition home from Kosovo was made easier by his then-fiancée DeeDee. The couple had met in the Hamline library, and they married soon after Mike returned home in July 2008. Today DeeDee LeMier works at Hamline as an admissions counselor, continuing the couple’s ties to the university.
As for Mike, he plans to student-teach in spring 2010 and then graduate that May. Afterwards he hopes to teach history or social studies to high school students. “I was exposed to so much history and culture when I was deployed overseas,” says Mike. “I was able to take it all in, and I know I can bring it with me to the classroom.”
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