HMS teacher feels close connection to military community

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – More than 30 years ago Lisa Falcone married newly-minted U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Steve Falcone knowing very little about military life and being a military spouse.

Since marrying her husband shortly after they graduated from the University of Rhode Island, she has come to admire greatly the service and sacrifice of all members in the military community – including the nearly 3,000 dependent military children she estimates she has taught during her 33 years as a teacher.

“Early on, I felt a strong affinity toward the military and the children of service members,” she said. “I admired their life experience and resilience.”

Falcone first taught music at a Department of Defense school in Germany. After two years overseas, the young couple moved to Massachusetts.

After leaving active duty for the Army Reserve, Falcone accepted a position as a Hanscom contractor. He is now the director of engineering for Battle Management.

After two years teaching music in Taunton, Mass., Falcone wanted to work closer to her husband.

“I found an ad in the paper for a music teacher in the Lincoln Public Schools,” she said. “I asked my husband if he knew where Lincoln was, because we’re not from Massachusetts, and he said, ‘That’s kind of close to Hanscom.’”

She began her career in the Lincoln district in 1989 as the music teacher and choir director for HMS. She held that positon until 1997 when she left after the birth of their daughter.

“It was hard being away and not being a part of military kids’ lives,” she said. “One of the reasons I wanted to come back was because I missed it.”

During her hiatus, Falcone went on to earn a master’s in speech and language pathology from Worcester State University. She returned to HMS in 2004 where she works with children in grades two through eight who have speech or language disabilities.

“My job is for my students to become better communicators,” Falcone said. “It’s to understand spoken and written language and to use language to express themselves.”

While she enjoys what she does, she has passion for those she helps.

“I feel comfortable with military families,” Falcone said. “I know what they are talking about when they say ‘my dad is TDY [temporary duty] or deployed.’ I have a true sense of what they’re going through.”

She spoke about how she is able to connect with children through her own experiences.

“When children come into my classroom they see pictures of my husband in uniform and ask, “Is he in the military?’” said Falcone. “That starts a conversation.”

That’s an important step in building trust, she said.

I’ll talk to them about how they feel and tell them some of the things I did with my daughters when they were little and their dad was deployed.

“I find with military kids that it’s important to bond with them very, very quickly to build rapport, especially as a speech language pathologist,” she said. “These students are pulled out of class because they have a disability and sometimes they’re not motivated.”

She also spoke about the empathy she has for military families.

“Many of the parents here are stretched thinly; they’re thinking about deployments, about professional military education,” Falcone said. “As a result, I’ve always been an advocate in making sure that homework is something kids can do independently.”

Her background has helped her mentor younger teachers at the school who might be new to the military experience.

“It’s about sharing the culture,” she said. “We discuss things they may not know about, like stopping your car when the national anthem plays at 5 o’clock.”

She highlighted that while her experience with the military may be different from many of her colleagues, the passion and dedication for the children at the Hancom Primary School and middle school are very much the same.

“All of the teachers at the middle school really take a lot of pride in teaching these children,” she said. “It really takes a village. All of the teachers put in a lot of time and energy into what they do for the students here.”

She spoke about the similarities of teaching and serving in the military.

“I think to be good at your teaching job, you have to have a high level of dedication,” she said. “The same is true of serving in the military. I am every bit as dedicated to my students as my husband was to the mission and his Soldiers while he served.”