Our Best: Staff Sgt. Heather Heinen
While floods and deployments have thrown many Soldiers’ education plans off track, they sometimes bring unexpected benefits.
Staff Sgt. Heather Heinen, Bismarck, is a supply sergeant with the North Dakota National Guard’s Company A, 231st Maneuver Task Force, based in Fargo. She deployed to Iraq in 2003-04 with Bismarck’s 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company.
Prior to her deployment, she was working and going to college, but she had not set any firm goals for herself. That changed after she returned.
“Deployment kind of makes you grow up a little,” Heinen said. “I always wanted to be a teacher, but I took it more seriously after I got back. I decided I wanted to get done with school.”
Heinen got a job as a Guard supply technician in Bismarck and started taking classes with Dickinson State University through Bismarck State College, at night and online. She took advantage of the Guard’s tuition reimbursement and G.I. Bill benefits.
“I have been working fulltime and going to school fulltime since 2005,” Heinen said.
In January 2009, the time had finally come for Heinen to finish her degree by completing her student teaching requirement. Because this would be a fulltime job in itself, Heinen quit her Guard technician position.
A Bismarck High School graduate, Heinen was assigned to student teach seniors at BHS in the government class.
“I loved it – it was the best experience ever,” she said. “I learned so much, not only about content, but about students and myself. It was an amazing experience.”
On April 13, with two weeks left before she finished her student teaching work, Heinen was activated for flood duty in Valley City with the 231st.
“I was done with teaching, but I still had the interviews and observation portion left,” she said.
Fortunately, DSU agreed to waive this requirement, and Heinen will be getting her teaching degree.
“I was worried I was making a mistake by resigning my fulltime Guard position,” she said. “Student teaching made me realize that teaching is what I want to do.”
Heinen said her “dream job” would be teaching at BHS, but she realizes she will have to find work where she can. Her job search is going to be delayed, however, because she will be deploying with the 231st to Kosovo for a year, beginning in the fall of 2009.
Flood duty in Valley City is giving Heinen the opportunity to work with the people she will be serving with in Kosovo.
“I am on the quick reaction force, on the night shift,” she said. “We are ready to do evacuation missions or sandbag missions whenever we are needed.”
Heinen said she thinks her military experience will help her be a better teacher.
“Working with high school kids is a lot like working with young Soldiers,” she said. “I’ve gone through many different situations in the military, and this experience will help me better communicate and interact with students.”
Story by Mike Hagburg
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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 2:00 pm and is filed under Disasters, Education, Military. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.