Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

Secondary Ed Grads Transition from the Military to the Classroom

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Five recent Watson College graduates began their careers in the military and will soon become high school teachers. Congratulations to Robert Blount ’20, ’21M, Micah Chandler ’20, ’21M, Bryan Ford ’21, Brooke Peery ’20, ’21M and Jon Sandusky ’20, ’21M.

Robert Blount ’20, ’21M

Robert Blount retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of Master Sergeant after a 27-year career that included 10 years in Infantry and 17 in Special Forces. While in Special Forces, he served seven combat tours: two in Iraq and five in Afghanistan. As a member of 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, he also completed shorter tours in Lebanon, Yemen, and Tajikistan. In addition to Fort Bragg, he was stationed in Panama for four years and Belgium for his last three years working at NATO Special Operations Headquarters.
After retiring in Belgium, Robert settled in Wilmington and enrolled at UNCW, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 2020 and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education in May. He said his military experience will be an asset during the next phase of his career as a high school history teacher.
“Spending years overseas living and working in other societies gave me a better understanding of history and social studies,” he said. “The military also taught me maturity, leadership and to forcefully advocate for what I believe is right. I decided to become a teacher because I owe a lot to this country and I want to continue serving in a meaningful way. Plus, if I am to be perfectly honest, I really enjoy teaching. I get to talk about history all day. I also think we owe the next generation an explanation of how we got to where we are today so they can take informed action to continue improving our society.”

Micah Chandler ’20, ’21M

Micah Chandler joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17, beginning a two-decade career that took him around the world to Afghanistan, Turkey, Spain and Norway. But it was one of his last posts, at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., that introduced him to what would eventually become his post-service path: teaching.
“The content (of the class) wasn’t the part that I loved, the teaching part was what I fell in love with,” says Micah, who taught electronic theory to young Marines in the role. “Every teacher will say they teach because they love hearing that sound a student makes when they finally understand something.”
Chandler earned an undergraduate degree in history and graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education in May. He is featured in a student spotlight on the UNCW giving website as part of a series called “Hawk’s Eye View.” Read the full story here: Hawk’s Eye View: Micah Chandler ’20, ’21M.

Bryan Ford ’21

Bryan Ford graduated in May with a degree in English and secondary teaching licensure. He served five years in the U.S. Navy as a Master at Arms (military police), earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in paralegal technology from Cape Fear Community College, and worked briefly as a paralegal before deciding to become a high school English teacher.

“When I was graduating high school, I wanted the opportunity to travel and I was not quite ready for college yet,“ he said. “Many of my relatives including my father had been in the military and I thought this was a great opportunity to earn an education and see a bit of the world. I had great mentors, good friends and while overseas I got to meet many people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. The military showed me that I was capable of doing so many great things that I never imagined I could do, and it instilled a "can't quit" attitude in me for days that are more challenging.”

Ford enjoyed his work in the Navy but wanted a career that he felt more passionate about.

“I remember thinking, ‘I don't just want to be working for a paycheck. I want to do something I love,’"  he said. “As I started looking back through my nostalgic lenses, the idea of becoming a teacher popped into my head. I always loved the academic environment and English was my favorite subject. I love reading and analyzing books and have been told I'm a fairly decent writer so I knew that was the subject I would enjoy teaching most. Once the thought sparked as an idea, it manifested into a calling and ‘just made sense’ to me.”

Ford said Watson’s secondary education program has prepared him for success in the classroom. “It's a team effort and everyone at Watson is there to help you grow into the best teacher you can be,” he said.

Brooke Peery ’20, ’21M

Brooke Peery is from Orlando, Florida. She served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Low Altitude Air Defense Gunner, maintaining and operating the shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft Stinger missile. Perry went on to earn a bachelor's degree in English, with a concentration in Literary Studies from UNCW. She graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching in secondary education in May and looks forward to beginning a new career as a high school English teacher.
“I chose the military to work toward a higher purpose than myself, to better myself and to test my discipline,” she said. “In the Marine Corps, I learned that I have both a passion and a gift for helping others to understand. When I help someone else to learn, it feels like we all win.”

Peery chose UNCW’s education program because “it seemed both comprehensive and caring,” she said. “I knew I wanted more than just a license, I really wanted to know how to get through to kids who are at an age where they often do not want to let anyone in. In the Marine Corps, I learned that relationships are how we truly get others to follow us. The relationships we build with kids will continue to grow them long after they have left our classrooms.”

To others considering a career in teaching after the military, she says, “Go for it! If you have been an instructor or otherwise in a leadership position and you really loved mentoring other servicemembers, Watson will help you to better those skills and give you all you need to succeed in the high school classroom.”

Jon Sandusky ’20, ’21M

Jon Sandusky is from Chicago, Illinois. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1999 and retired in 2014. His service included six years working as a V-22 aircraft Avionics instructor, curriculum developer and Master Training Specialist.

“Working at the Center for Naval Aviation for Technical Training (CNATT) New River Air Station was the best time of my career,” he said. “I taught in the classroom, laboratory and aircraft simulators as well as full-sized aircraft. I loved working with the latest technology and partnership companies to develop the best training we could provide our students.”

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Sandusky earned an associate degree in computer programming from Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, before deciding to pursue a career he loved: teaching. He enrolled at UNCW, earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 2020 and graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in secondary education in May.

Sandusky’s wife is a former Marine, a stepson, also in the Marine Corps, is currently deployed, and he has two high school-aged children. He said strong support from his family helped him manage his time as he worked to balance coursework, teaching and family obligations, especially during the pandemic. His military training and strong computer skills also came in handy during his internship at Laney High School this spring.

“I taught physical science during the most unusual time of COVID, and I loved every minute of it,” he said. “Teaching students online using ZOOM along with students in the classroom was an interesting challenge, but my computer knowledge helped and if the Marine Corps taught me anything it's how to overcome and adapt. My partnership teacher, Ms. Jeanna Boyd, was the best and it was great to work with many professionals with a passion for teaching. They helped me adapt my adult learning skills to teaching younger high school students.”

He looks forward to returning to Laney High School, where he will begin a new career as an earth and environmental science teacher in August.

About Watson’s Secondary Education Programs

UNCW’s Watson College of Education offers a two-year licensure program for undergraduate students majoring in mathematics, science, history or English at UNCW; a one full-year Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program for students with an undergraduate degree in math, science, history or English; and a five-year bachelor’s/master’s combined program.
The programs, designed for students who would like to teach at the high school level, are all offered in a cohort model and feature small class sizes and dedicated faculty with extensive high school classroom teaching experience. During the final semester, students participate in full-time student teaching under the guidance of a mentor teacher and faculty supervisor.
For more information visit the program websites: