Face of Defense: Teacher Seeks Officer’s Commission
By Jennifer Archdekin
Missouri National Guard
CALLAO, Mo., Feb. 28, 2011 Jamie Matheney, the kindergarten teacher at Callao Elementary School here, is expanding her role as a public servant by becoming a commissioned officer in the Missouri Army National Guard.
The 34-year-old educator from Brookfield will attend officer candidate school to obtain her commission.
Matheney has taught for the past four years and possesses both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. About 300 people live in the small town of Callao where she teaches. In addition to the 70 student-school, there’s a post office and a couple of antique shops.
“In this area [the students] don’t have a lot of choices,” Matheney said. “I want them to know -- especially in kindergarten -- that you can do whatever [you want to do].”
Pam Halstead, a fellow teacher, said she had mixed emotions when Matheney shared her plans about joining the military.
“I’m selfish enough to want her to stay, but love her enough to wish her all the best,” Halstead said. “I know that in order to be a great leader, you have to be an exemplary servant. That is Jamie. She is loyal, patient, willing to get out of her comfort zone, kind, hardworking, unconventional, funny, and my kindred spirit.”
“All the teachers here have been very supportive,” Matheney said.
Matheney said she received a mixed response when she told her eight young students she was joining the National Guard. She said they did not fully understand what was going on.
“After I told the class, one of the students looked and me and said, ‘I licked an icicle,’” Matheney said. “I said, ‘Good. I’m so glad you did.’ In two weeks they will have forgotten about me.”
Some of the older students Matheney had taught in years past have a better understanding of what their former teacher is doing and asked more questions.
“I love my students, I do,” said Matheney. “When I told them I was leaving, I cried.”
Matheney believes she’ll return to her classroom as a different person after spending 21 weeks of training with the National Guard.
“I might be a little stricter,” Matheney said. “I’m very laid back and talk calm to them. I try to respect the kids no matter what, and expect them to respect me. That may be more intensified when I get back.”
The decision to join the military was not entered into lightly. Matheney knew her choice would affect a lot of people in different ways, not only at school, but at home as well. A driving force in her decision to become a Guard member was the opportunity to receive up to $50,000 in student loan repayments.
Matheney said her husband, Todd, is extremely supportive.
“He pretty much said, ‘If you want to do it -- do it,’” Matheney said.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Brad Gladbach recruited Matheney. He said she is a stand-out soldier that the Missouri National Guard is fortunate to have.
Matheney’s impressive education “has already taught her how to be a leader,” Gladbach said. “Her experiences with the National Guard will only increase those leadership skills in her classroom and help her to be a strong leader to her soldiers.”
Gladbach said Matheney is the first soldier he has enlisted that will go straight into officer candidate school. He said most of his recruits are either right out of high school or attending college. Matheney’s education, he said, makes her unique.
Matheney and her husband live on a family farm and raise cattle with their 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. Matheney received her master’s degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia and her bachelor’s degree from Graceland University in Trenton. She plans to continue teaching this fall.