Retired Lieutenant Colonel Aricai Berry, is back in service. Berry, JROTC’s newest Senior Army Instructor, served 22 years in the military, but is now ready for a service of a different kind. Although this might be her first year in a classroom, teaching wasn’t her biggest fear.
“I was worried about Dallas and traffic, but I like Mansfield. It still has that small town community feel that I was enjoying in the central Texas area. The adjustment hasn’t been bad at all. I try to stay out of Dallas because I don’t like traffic. But other than that, it’s been good,” stated Berry.
Berry chose to become a JROTC instructor in order to continue serving her country. Something she learned how to do as a member of the ROTC at Tuskegee University at Alabama. Berry also wanted to be able to teach students that it is important to give to the community, no matter who they are or where and what they come from.
“A part of being in the military is service, so I feel like while being a JROTC instructor, I’m still serving. I’m teaching these young high school students how to be better citizens. I want them to focus on their future and their country, and learning how to be a better citizen in the United States. A lot of us have made mistakes in the past, and sometimes we overcome that negativity we have in our life,” said Berry.
Berry developed a nurturing style with her students, and wants them to feel as if they have a family between herself and First Sergeant Sedric Wade. She takes her cadet’s feelings and concerns seriously and wants them to be optimistic about their futures.
“I just want to re-enforce positivity. I want the students to know the things that they can do after high school, talking to them about life lessons. I feel like if a cadet has a problem, they should be able to talk to me or First Sergeant Wade about anything going on in their life,” said Berry.
Many students feel comfortable around the new instructor, even though their first impression of her wasn’t quite what they expected. Miranda Noël, sophomore, is in her third year of the JROTC program, also known as a LET 3. She feels that the new instructor is very welcoming and her personality allows students to easily approach her.
“Everyone feels comfortable going up for questions and they don’t feel scared. She has that persona of a nice person, she’s there for you. My first impression of her was that she was really quiet. I thought she was just going to stay in the back and not talk. But it turns out we can be serious and also joke around with her. She’s really funny and she makes you feel comfortable,” said the Cadet First Sergeant.
It’s not just Noël who feels this way about Berry. Jeremy Lednicky, sophomore and LET 2, has worked with the new instructor, and feels that she is doing well at adjusting to teaching high school students.
“Being 18 months out, you’re probably still transitioning from that military mindset of leading soldiers instead of leading high school kids. But she’s been joking around with us and chilling, and of course teaching us.” states Lednicky.
It’s not just the students who have taken a liking to Berry. First Sergeant Wade noticed that Berry has a unique teaching method and feels that her persona seems to be sitting well with the students.
“Colonel Berry has her own way of doing things and it’s a new way of doing things, she’s very organized. The students are responding well. Working with her has been refreshing. They call it battle buddies, people we work close with. She is my battle buddy and we do everything together as far as with the kids, it’s a great relationship,” states Wade.
It seems that Berry’s experience has been enjoyable thus far. She will continue to encourage students, as well as continue to work hard to help her students better appreciate their country and make an effort to give back to the community.