An Officer and a Teacher
For more than a decade, he helped the military defend against biological and chemical weapons. Now he teaches middle school science. Mark Daugherty is a former army officer who has spent the past 19 years teaching eighth grade physical science at Stone Middle School.
Daugherty studied biology at Vanderbilt University with the hope of becoming a doctor and was also enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, program. After graduating, he lost interest in the doctor dream, and was obligated as part of ROTC to serve at least four years in the army. He ended up spending “twelve years as an officer in the Chemical Corps, working in a field called Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare Defense.” During that time, he realized his personal preference was training young soldiers, so upon leaving the military and looking for a new career, it was a natural fit to venture into teaching. Along with his experience, he also brings a few pieces of equipment from the military into the classroom, many used by him personally. During a recent class, Daugherty displayed his gas mask collection for students to examine as part of a lesson on the book The Hot Zone, an account of a real-life Ebola scare. “The stuff I bring in, if [the students] can touch, feel, and put it on, they can better understand [the material].”
His practical connection to the subject matter is helpful but the most important thing he brings from his military experience is his ability to inspire people to action. “In the military you’ve got people who are asked to do difficult things and they sometimes don’t want to do it, and you have to motivate them. It’s the same way with kids.” Daugherty asserts there is a least one major difference between training soldiers and teaching students. With adults you can “push them along, ask them to do something and they will do it.” With kids it is necessary to “pull them along. It is all about your enthusiasm [and] about how you relate to the kid.” Teaching can be a trying experience but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I am as happy as clam, I work harder now than I ever did in the military. It’s never boring, and I get to make a tangible difference with kids. I wouldn’t do anything else.”