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posted: Sun, Nov 22nd, 2015

Marine sergeant visits on Veterans Day

The sandstorm erupted quickly.

Many of them do. This was Iraq in the winter, an inhospitable environment to say the least. Flat and dry with no end in sight. With whirling winds just aching to grow into a tempest of dirt and dust.

When Marine Sergeant Erik Nyby (then a lance corporal) received word that a truck with members of his platoon had broken down a mile off base, he didn't hesitate. He jumped into an LVS – a 36-foot-long, 8-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle – and took off into the storm.

The blasting dust and sand wasn't the real danger, although they can wreak havoc with engines and irritate the eyes and respiratory system. The marines in an immobilized vehicle were sitting ducks for Islamic militants, particularly if the storm cleared. The clock was ticking…

That story, told by the former marine to Deanne Cornine's class on Veterans Day, was just one that kept the third-graders riveted. In his dress blues, Sgt. Nyby discussed experiences from his distinguished 13 years of military service in the motor transport unit.

A long-time friend of Mrs. Cornine’s, the sergeant has been a regular Veterans Day speaker in her classes for years.

"I want my students to realize how important it is to honor the people who have sacrificed so much for our freedom," said Mrs. Cornine. "Hearing from a veteran makes war and conflict real for them. It puts a face on something that can seem remote and abstract."

Sgt. Nyby described regular military life and the tiring, constant state of caution and high alert that grips every armed forces member deployed in a combat zone. He also showed off the 40-pound bulletproof vest that protected him every day in the field. For much of his time with the class, though, Sgt. Nyby answered a myriad of questions from students anxious to hear tales of far-off lands and a way of life so different from their own.

Through the years, the sergeant's visits have left indelible imprints on students. While walking through the hallway, he was enthusiastically greeted by former Cornine students who welcomed him back to CMS.

"Erik's a true hero, probably the first one the kids have met," said Mrs. Cornine. "All veterans and active personnel are. But I think students are able to see in him his courage, selflessness, caring, and loyalty. Those qualities stay with kids.”

Before he left, Sgt. Nyby delivered one important message that he hopes will stay with students for years to come. “Work hard in school every day,” he said. “Because no matter what you want to do in life, your education is the key to it all.”

For his service to our country, Sgt. Nyby, a Boonton resident, was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, Selective Marine Corps Reserve Medal with three stars, National Defense Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal with three stars, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment with one star, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with an hour glass, M and 3. (M stands for mobilization, 3 stands for the number of times mobilized).

Battling the desert elements and low visibility, Sgt. Nyby found his stranded men and colleagues. He hooked up their vehicle to his LVS and towed them safely back to base.

Young Consumers is back

Educational consultants from ShopRite recently visited CMS third grade classes to kickoff Young Consumers. The program, which began years ago as a joint venture between the district and Ronetco ShopRite supermarkets, combines math and nutritional information in a fun and unique way.

The primary goal of Young Consumers is to strengthen students’ math, spatial, and logical reasoning skills. It also teaches kids to apply their understanding of these concepts both inside and outside the classroom walls in practical, real world situations.

You often hear the words “real world” or “real life” used in education. There’s good reason for that: When students can make the link between classroom learning and everyday living, the subject matter takes on a greater relevance. This leads to a stronger understanding and retention of the material.

The educational consultants from ShopRite who visited engaged the third-graders in a number of hands-on activities. Students solved multiplication and division problems by using plastic pizza pies and worked on spatial reasoning puzzles using plastic pretzels and wood pancakes. (The use of learning manipulatives – concrete objects that can be used in problem-solving activities – is a key element of the Young Consumers program.)

Later on in the program, students will also learn about nutrition and the food pyramid from a ShopRite nutritional expert. This information, along with the math skills they’ve learned, will be put together and used in the program’s culminating activity: a field trip to ShopRite in Flanders later this spring. Working in pairs, each team of students will create a healthy three-day menu for a family of four and come to the store to purchase the ingredients using a budget of $100. 

The school district and Ronetco ShopRite have been honored for this program by the New Jersey Association of Partners in Education and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

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Chester M. Stephens Elementary School
99 Sunset Drive Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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Phone: 973.691.4002 Fax: 973.691.4030

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