Army vet brings personal touch to Jeannette history classes
Ryan Cameron is in what can be a unique position for a high school teacher — particularly when he’s covering military history because, at times, he’s teaching a bit of his own history.
Cameron, who is in his second year as a teacher at Jeannette, is teaching world history, American cultures, military history and international relations. As a four-year veteran of the U.S. Army, who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan in separate deployments, he can bring a personal experience to his classroom in a distinctive way.
“After high school I spent a year in community college and then went to the military,” he said. “I would teach people things and thought it was something I enjoyed a lot. A lot of what I learned could translate to teaching (as a career). And I wanted to be able to inspire young people.”
Each deployment lasted about four months and, in total, he spent more than a year in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rest of the time he was stationed in Fort Benning, Ga.
“With the exception of my family, it’s what I’m most proud of,” Cameron said of his service. “They were the best people I’ve met, the most dedicated people I’ve met.”
Now when he teaches about the global War on Terror, he can share some of his personal experience with his students.
He doesn’t share a lot of what his deployments were like, necessarily, but rather he talks to kids who are thinking about the military as a career.
“Jeannette has a lot of kids who go to the military and I can share with them information on what that career is and what to expect. I’m not a recruiter by any means, but I want them to know what it’s like.”
Cameron said he wasn’t the student he could have been in high school and he talked to a recruiter while he was in community college because he needed some direction.
That talk set him on the path that led him to his career as a teacher. In fact, Cameron said, had he not joined the Army he might not have even finished college. He said the military gave him the motivation he needed to do find his calling.
When he joined the high school staff last year, the administration asked him what types of classes he would like to oversee and they were receptive to his request to teach military history.
“Teaching in Jeannette, you can make connections with kids quicker than in larger schools,” he said. “I have some kids three times a day and you get to know the students and they get to know you. It helps them to learn.”
Cameron got his bachelor’s degree at Seton Hill and is now studying to get his master’s degree in history from Duquesne University. He’d like to teach at the college level over the summers, maybe become an adjunct professor.
“I like history and it’s interesting and important to understand what is happening today,” said Cameron. His favorite time periods are the Civil War and World War II, but he also enjoys talking to his students about current events.
“It’s so interesting and I want the students to get excited, too,” said Cameron.
He is a Penn-Trafford graduate and he still lives in this area with his wife, Jennifer Cameron, who is a second-grade teacher in the Greensburg Salem School District.
The couple has two daughters, Mackenzie, 4, and Madison, 18 months. Mackenzie enjoys dance and Jennifer teaches dances classes. As for the youngest Cameron girl — “Maddy has no fear. She climbs all the time, non-stop.”
The family enjoys trips to local amusement parks and spending time with family.
When Cameron is not working, he enjoys reading. He likes reading military history and right now he’s reading a lot about the Holocaust, to prepare him for a trip to the Holocaust Museum with students.
He particularly enjoys authors Cormac McCarthy, who wrote “No Country for Old Men,” and Stephen Ambrose, who wrote “Band of Brothers,” and George RR Martin, who writes the “Game of Thrones” series of books.
Everything he reads is something he can bring with him to his classroom in some way, he said.
Cameron enjoys teaching in Jeannette, for several reasons, and said the faculty “is really supportive and willing to help and to collaborate. It’s refreshing to see. They’re the hardest working people I’ve ever seen, I’m glad to be a part of it.
“The kids are very funny and honest and they work for everything they have. It makes me appreciate where they come from and I want to be a good example for them.”
Look Who’s Teaching is a recurring feature in The Jeannette Spirit, that will give readers a look at several teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels in the Jeannette School District each year.
Teachers are picked at random, by grade level and participation is voluntary. The Spirit hopes to introduce many teachers to the community throughout the school year.
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 724-838-5154.