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From Armed Service to the Classroom

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we invited Karen Dorsey – one of the many teachers who participate in our College Readiness Program – to share her journey from military service to classroom teaching. Here’s her story…

I truly believe the greatest gift we can give our country is to serve in the military, but neither military service or classroom teaching was in my line of sight when I graduated high school in 1972.

With a full scholarship to Eastern Michigan College and work experience at a local hospital, I felt as if my future was laid out in front of me. But then I watched as my male friends received their draft papers to serve in Viet Nam, thinking it was unfair that women didn’t have to go. Despite my college plans, I decided I wanted to serve my country.

I set my eyes on joining the security forces, a combat position at the time. However, I learned that women were not allowed to serve in combat areas. Undeterred, I leveraged my hospital experience to allow me to skip technical training, attend combat med school and become an EMT.

Because of my training, I was sent to Turkey in 1975 and became the first female to be allowed to work in the emergency room there.  While I was in Turkey, the Cyprus War broke out, and we ended up in a support position for the Turkish Airmen. 

After nine years of service, I left the Air Force in 1982. My husband became commissioned in the Air Force and I was pregnant with my first child. I set out to become a registered nurse and spent the next 10 years trying to accomplish that goal – all while following my husband in his career in the Air Force.

While nursing was something that I knew, I had always wanted to be a teacher. After moving to five different states, each with its own sets of requirements for graduation, I graduated in Dec. 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Education.

I spent the first half of my career working at the elementary level, but my love for science drove me to seek certification at the high school level. Now I teach AP Biology and Anatomy and Physiology at Knob Noster High School, where I’ve been for the last 12 years. 

The military served as a great gateway between high school and discovering my career. It provided me with the time that I needed to grow up and be on my own – all while under the protection of having a job and basic necessities provided.

My experience as an EMT has helped me in my Anatomy and Physiology class that I teach to Juniors and Seniors.  I constantly weave in my experiences as an EMT into the lessons we are learning. One student decided to become an EMT right out of high school because of the personal stories I shared in my class. 

Every day brings a new adventure. As a senior in high school, I had no idea that I would one day return back to the classroom. In my career, I decided what I wanted to do and refused to let obstacles deter me. Though my path to teaching looks different than many others, each previous experience provided new ways to connect to students and the material that I teach.

As a senior in high school, I had no idea I would return to the classroom. But the many paths I went down got me here and I'm glad I get to share my experiences with my students. 

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