Get Help From Best Educators

What do the Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate Team, the Cameron and Sherrard Middle School history bowl teams and the U.S. Army have in common?

Not much, except for one very important attribute: They all produce winners.

Think about this: Retired U.S. Army Col. Gregory Gadson, guest speaker for Wednesday night’s Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce banquet, spent a good deal of time talking about how he lost his legs. It happened while he was serving in Iraq in 2007.

Not long before his battalion left the United States to go overseas, Gadson, who commanded it, learned the medic had been transferred to another unit. Obviously, he didn’t want to take men into a combat zone without someone to treat the wounded.

A young man, 19-year-old Pvt. Eric Brown, of Spokane, Washington, was available — but he had not been trained as a medic. His job was dealing with chemical, biological and nuclear warfare situations. The Army gave Brown a two-week crash course as a medic.

Then, one night in May 2007, a vehicle in which Gadson was riding was destroyed by an improvised explosive device — a roadside bomb. The blast was so violent that the colonel was thrown about 120 meters, more than the length of a football field, from the vehicle. His legs were virtually destroyed. He was injured so badly in that area of his body that it was two weeks before doctors noticed his arm had been broken, too.

Brown saved his life.

Think about that: Somehow, the Army gave the young man enough training to deal with injuries as severe as Gadson’s — and they did it in two weeks.

Hundreds of thousands of times a year, the armed forces take young men and women off the street and teach them critical, often complex skills.

Obviously, they understand how to educate people and motivate them.

So do the local educators responsible for the Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate Team. For 40 years, no one has been able to beat the team at the state championship competition. Give Coach Bill Cornforth and longtime mentor Fran Schoolcraft the credit for that.

Clearly, they, too, know something about teaching and motivating.

Or, consider Dan Gatts, the Sherrard Middle School teacher whose History Bowl team placed third in state competition this year. It’s his first year at Sherrard. Previously, at Cameron Middle School, his teams placed first in 2015, 2017 and 2018. In 2016, they were runners-up.

Is Gatts a top teacher and motivator? Obviously.

We talk a lot these days about how to improve schools. What we really mean is how to educate youngsters — and motivate some who need a bit of a boot in the you-know-what in order to learn.

Maybe we ought to be asking the experts — only a few of whom are mentioned above — how to do it. There are lots of them available, in classrooms, on playing fields, in businesses and preparing young men and women to defend our country. They’d probably be delighted to help.

Have we asked?

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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