Touching Base--Volume 5 Issue 1

April 2012 — Volume 5 Issue 1

“The last time we were together, Michelle and I talked to you … about our idea for the Joining Forces Initiative to honor, recognize, and support military families. … We have been so delighted by the response from Americans all over this country.”
–– Dr. Jill Biden, Speaking to U.S. Governors at the White House, Feb. 27, 2012

The First Lady Encourages Military Families on iCarly

First Lady Michelle Obama visited a secondary school in Alexandria, Va., outside Washington, D.C., on Friday, Jan. 13, to join the cast of Nickelodeon's iCarly at a special screening of "iMeet the First Lady," a new episode that honors America's military children and features none other than the first lady of the U.S. The show's lead character, Carly Shay (Miranda Cosgrove), plays the role of the daughter of an Air Force colonel serving overseas. In the episode, Mrs. Obama talks with Carly about her service as a member of a military family and thanks her friends for supporting her during her father's deployment. "We did this episode because we want the whole country to know how proud we are of all of you and how much we appreciate you as our little heroes," Mrs. Obama told the kids. The iCarly cast hosted special screenings of the show for military families around the country the week of Jan. 16–20. The episode aired on Nickelodeon on Jan. 16. Watch clips of the program at

The Department of Education Encourages Flexibility for the Military in Student Financial Aid Matters

Military personnel and their families, including the National Guard and Reserves, may lose student financial aid due to temporary spikes in pay from activation and deployments. To help remedy this situation, the Department of Education has sent guidance on flexibility to all financial aid administrators at postsecondary educational institutions. The guidance, in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter, encourages administrators to consider such special circumstances and reminds them that they may exercise documented professional judgment when determining the eligibility of students for federal aid. It also reminds them about the combat pay exclusion for calculating a student's expected family contribution on the FAFSA. The Department’s “Dear Colleague” letter is available at

Military families and veterans are encouraged to apply for the financial aid that is available through the Department of Education in addition to applying for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The FAFSA is available at

Explore School Start-Up Options for Military Families on the National Charter School Resource Center Website

The National Charter School Resource Center (Resource Center) develops and offers easy access to high-quality resources and information that facilitate understanding charter schools and exploring them as an option for military families. With six charter schools currently operating on military bases, interest in them appears to be growing in military communities. Among the resources at the center’s website is A Toolbox to Help Start a School on a Military Base. Provided through Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona where a charter school was started in 2009, the brochure offers step-by-step guidance for starting a school—public, private, charter, or magnet—on a military base, the issues to consider, who should serve on project teams, and examples of approvals needed. For more information and to download the brochure, visit

Specialized Training of Military Parents (STOMP) Supports Families With Children Who Have Special Needs

The Specialized Training of Military Parents (STOMP) project received its first grant in 1985, and has been providing services to military families since then. The core of STOMP’s work is to provide direct services to military families, training tailored to their needs, and direct information and referral to families that call the program for assistance. Military parents use STOMP resources to ease transitions between schools, obtain Individualized Education Program counseling, and better advocate for their children with disabilities. STOMP provides workshops focusing on accessing special education resources and enabling families to navigate a variety of educational and medical systems and programs. The STOMP project also provides technical assistance to over 100 federally funded Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs) throughout the United States and its territories to increase the centers’ capacity to serve military families. For more information and locations of STOMP, visit and

DoDEA Teacher of the Year Named as One of Four Finalists for the 2012 National Teacher of the Year

Angela Wilson, the 2012 Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Teacher of the Year, was selected by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) as one of the four finalists for the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. The National Teacher of the Year Program is the oldest and most prestigious awards program for teachers in the country. It is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and is sponsored by the ING Foundation and Target in partnership with the University of Phoenix and People to People Ambassador Programs.

Wilson's selection marks the first time a DoDEA teacher has been selected as one of the four finalists. A panel of educators, representing 14 national education organizations, chose the finalists from the 2012 state teachers of the year in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and four U.S. extra-state jurisdictions.

Marilee Fitzgerald, DoDEA director, congratulated Wilson and expressed her thoughts as Wilson moves forward in the competition: "We are so very proud of Angela and we are thrilled that she's been named as one of the four finalists for the 2012 National Teacher of the Year recognition. This nomination marks a milestone for DoDEA because it's the first time one of our teachers has been among the four finalists. Angela is committed to teaching and dedicated to providing our students with the best possible learning experience. She is an example of the quality and commitment all DoDEA teachers have to our students and to education."

Wilson, a Forensics and Language Arts teacher at Vicenza Middle School in Italy, was selected from among 14 district nominees as DoDEA's 2012 Teacher of the Year last fall. With more than 11 years of teaching experience, Wilson has taught in public schools in Utah and Illinois and in DoDEA schools in Korea, Turkey, and Italy. She is a 1997 magna cum laude graduate of Western Illinois University where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in education. She also holds a master's degree in education from Southern Utah University. For more information on The National Teacher of the Year Program, go to

Senators Urge GI Bill Be Trademarked

Sen. Tom Harkin and 13 other senators have suggested that “the phrase 'GI Bill' be trademarked by the federal government.” Trademarking the name would give the Veterans Administration (VA) the power to “decide when and how the words 'GI Bill' are used.” The 14 senators have asked the VA to "seek a trademark for the name 'GI Bill,'” saying that such protection could help keep unscrupulous for-profit colleges and recruiting sites from using the phrase to entice veterans to enroll in programs that “overpromise the benefits of their classes or charge exorbitant fees." With a trademark, VA would have the discretion “to permit legitimate Web sites or entities to use the phrase” and ”prevent the phrase 'GI Bill' from being used in misleading or dishonest marketing campaigns,” the senators wrote in a letter on Friday to VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. Senate Military Family Caucus Co-Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer signed the letter with the other senators. To see a full text of the letter go to

VA Announces Winners in Badges for Vets Contest

Last November, the VA announced a nationwide competition to create digital badges to help veterans translate their military skills into civilian jobs or to receive advance credit in higher education. The competition was held in collaboration with Mozilla, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and administered by the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. Western Governors University, the Manufacturing Institute, and TopCoder, Inc. have been honored by the Department of Veterans Affairs for their contributions to a new digital badge program that will make it easier for veterans to document the skills they learned in uniform for civilian employers and institutions of higher education.

A digital badge recognizes skills obtained through learning outside traditional classrooms, such as work-related training and experience. Digital-badge credentials are issued by organizations such as schools, universities, employers, and trade associations, and can be displayed and validated electronically on the Web or presented on a resume. Like any credential or academic credit, a digital badge can lead to a job or advanced academic standing.

The VA was joined by the departments of Education, Energy, and Labor to sponsor the contest. The Badges for Vets contest is part of the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, which aims to build digital badge systems and explore the ways badges can be used to help people learn, demonstrate skills and knowledge, and unlock job, educational, and civic opportunities.

“Badges recognize the skills that members of our military are learning in the field — making Veterans the real winners of this competition,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These grantees will help to put Veterans on a fast track toward earning a degree or certificate and will let employers know they have workforce-ready skills.”

“We strive to support the men and women who served in uniform as they make their transitions to good jobs and advanced education,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, “Our Badges for Vets program will offer Veterans a handy tool to demonstrate their experience to employers and educators.”

For more information about the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, visit and; for the VA Innovation Initiative, visit; and for the websites of winners, visit,,, and

Contacts:Massie Ritsch, deputy assistant secretary of external affairs and outreach, Charles Boyer, special advisor for military families; Cynthia Hearn Dorfman, advisor; Carrie Jasper, writer and editor; and Gary Jones, Connie Gillette, and Katina Stapleton, contributors.
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Last Modified: 04/13/2012