Six years ago, when Sarah Murdock was a teacher at R.V. Kerr Elementary School, a first-grader in her class was struggling with the absence of his father who had deployed to the Middle East.
The Louisiana public school serves Barksdale Air Force Base and its military-affiliated students.
Murdock, a military spouse, said she allowed the student to share the photos and badges he received from his father in a lesson he taught to his class.
“It helped him to get through it,” Murdock said. “He was really upset that his father was gone. He loved teaching the class.”
Murdock, now a third-grade teacher at Manor View Elementary School, said her experience as a military spouse and mother helps her relate to her military students and the stresses they face.
“I’m able to connect with them,” she said. “I understand what it’s like to move and how hard it is.”
Murdock’s husband, Tech Sgt. Christopher Murdock, works at the National Security Agency. The couple, who reside in Meuse Forest, are parents of Beckett, 4, and Kellan 6, a first-grader at Manor View.
Murdock is one of four military spouses who work as homeroom teachers at Manor View.
Forty-percent of the students are from active-duty military families.
Bruce Gruber, principal at Manor View, said hiring a military spouse to work at a Fort Meade school is an advantage.
“They know the community. They see the kids in the community and they know what it’s like to be a military child,” Gruber said.
Manor View has a “high mobility rate,” said Gruber, noting the number of students who come and go within a school year.
Military spouses, he said, are “very flexible and adaptable” in their ability to serve military children, as well as the school’s general population.
Amanda Hall, a fourth-grade teacher and military spouse, said the frequent moves can take an emotional toll on military children.
“What I see most is the internal struggle,” Hall said. “They worry about being the new kid in school and being in a new environment.”
Hall and her husband, Staff Sgt. Richard Hall of the 241st Military Police Detachment, are the parents of a newborn son, Aaron.
Sarah Longo, a teacher’s aide and military spouse, said military children appreciate the compassion and boundaries their teachers provide.
“When they know you’re really paying attention to them, they want to do their best,” she said.
Longo and her husband, Lt. Col. Christopher Longo of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, reside in Potomac Place with their children: Robert, 15, Abigail, 7, and Rebecca, 7, a second-grader at Manor View.
First-grade teacher Jennifer Benes, who also is a military spouse, said military parents are relieved when they find out she’s one of them.
“They feel ‘she’s a military spouse, she gets it,’ ” Benes said. “I’m just another constant in their children’s life when their family’s constant is not there.”
Benes said that when military children act out with behavioral problems, their parents feel they can work with her to help youngsters make a smooth transition.
“I get that,” Benes said. “I understand their nomadic existence. … We’ve done our fair share of moving. You pack up your life and wait for it to show up in a few months.”
Benes and her husband, Master Sgt. Louis Benes of the 94th Intelligence Squadron, are parents of Andrew 7, and Megan 10, who also attend Manor View. The family lives in Severn.
“It’s a family affair,” Benes said of her children attending the school. “This is a school that I like that they’re a part of.”
Gruber said teachers and administrators are aware of the special needs of military children and provide support for them and all of Manor View’s students.
Each class has two student ambassadors who welcome new students.
These student ambassadors become buddies and role models to new students, and help them acclimate to the school.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools, of which Manor View is a part, is the recipient of the DoD’s Education Activity’s Tapestry grant. The grant is aimed at ensuring the academic, social and emotional well-being of military-connected children.
Fort Meade’s schools receive funding under the grant.
Gruber said Fort Meade’s military community and its children are resilient.
“I knew one student who came from Colorado to Fort Meade and then went to Italy — all in one year,” he said.
“That has to be hard on a kid. … I couldn’t do that.”