Head of the Class: Vern Randall
Coaches, mentors, and teachers can make a big impact on the lives of their students. A senior Army instructor at Bartlett High School embodies all of those titles, as he continues to serve the community following years of dedicated military service.
When the bell rings, Vern Randall's second-period Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps class knows exactly what to do. They say a pledge, dedicating themselves to being better students, friends, and citizens.
Randall says his mission through JROTC is a clear one.
"Making our students into better citizens, a lot of stuff that just doesn't get met in a traditional classroom," Randall said. "Sometimes you want to get what you want, sometimes you cave in to the other person, but remember we always want to maintain the relationship; that's a negotiation. Focusing on communication, interpersonal relationships, knowing about yourself and 'How am I improving myself?' and using that as a springboard to improve society."
Randall says these lessons are a necessary springboard to improve society as a whole. It starts with each student and it starts in the classroom.
He learned many life lessons as an infantryman in the Army, before retiring as a lieutenant colonel after 24 years of service. He's humorous in hindsight about the ways he reached the battlefield.
"Mechanized infantry, which means I rode a little tank around," Randall said. "And then I've done both airborne and air assault, which meant there were things flying around in the air and I fell out of them."
When Randall's military career came to a close, he looked for a way to continue serving while being able to share his life experiences. He says he was inspired by his parents and his in-laws, who were all teachers.
"To use the 30 years of experience that I have and the hard lessons, the bumps and the bruises, to maybe set them up for a bit more success," Randall said.
His students say they appreciate his genuine sense of care, asking them to share positive life experiences at the start of each class. They also appreciate the "real world" lessons he offers.
"A few weeks ago, we learned everything there is to know about credit," exclaimed one sophomore. "Now I feel like I'm not going to fail with my first credit card!"
Randall isn't an active-duty officer now, but he's made a major impact in just a year and a half of teaching. Randall says his students make him feel at home, and he wants them to know he's got their back.
"I don't want [students] to sell themselves short," Randall said. "These kids are amazing. [Their] capabilities, the knowledge they already have and their desires... we can always stereotype and say, 'They're just kids'. I walked by two kids yesterday and I heard one say to the other, 'Did you hear they delayed Brexit?' And I was like, 'What? You guys are up on current affairs, you're listening to the news?' It's just moments like that where kids have unlimited potential and they're reaching for it. I want to make sure they know they can."
Vern Randall shares his life in hopes of enriching others, earning the title Head of the Class.
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