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Fort Myers High teacher named JROTC Instructor of the Year

May 30, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A Lehigh Acres man found his passion - and national recognition - after trying his hand at substitute teaching while he was still on active duty.

Jesse Bryson, now a Fort Myers High School JROTC instructor, has been named the Army's JROTC Instructor of the Year from among more than 4,000 instructors across the country.

"This is a great day for the School District of Lee County and our JROTC programs," said Director of Army Instruction for the School District of Lee County Lt. Col. Tom Madigan in a prepared statement. "Jesse Bryson's performance and his establishment of the 'I Will' Mentorship Foundation and work with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to increase STEM - science, technology, engineering and math - skills and employment opportunities for students has made and will continue to make a very positive impact on our community."

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Fort Myers High School Army JROTC Instructor Jesse Bryson has been named the Army's JROTC Instructor of the Year from among more than 4,000 instructors across the country.


Jesse Bryson never expected special acknowledgement for his efforts because of all the great things other instructors are doing around the country.

"I was recognized above the rest. It was pretty awesome," he said.

Bryson will be honored at the Florida Army JROTC workshop in Orlando this summer.

"I am thankful for the support that I received from JROTC and thankful for my coworkers," Bryson said. "People don't welcome change, but the change has been received with open arms. I thank them for knowing that it is something good for us as a unit."

In 2008, Bryson became an instructor at Fort Myers High School after serving in the Army for 20 years. One of the highlights of his military career was working in the White House Communications Agency for presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

"I look at it more as a calling and a passion. It truly is a calling. I was meant to do this to impact these lives," Bryson said of becoming an instructor.

As an Army JROTC instructor, his focal point is collegiate vocational education for every student through providing proper resources and motivation to achieve their goals.

Bryson created a pilot program, a JROTC STEM program. Since becoming one of the first in the country in pioneering a way to incorporate STEM with JROTC, he has seen more than a 20 percent increase in students changing their perspective of what JROTC entails.

"It is a teacher for them regardless of what they decide to do after high school," he said.

With the incorporation, the JROTC program created Invictus, a robotics team that recently won Florida State Rookie Team of the Year at the 2018 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Regional Championship in Orlando and earned a spot in the FIRST World Robotics Championship in Houston, Texas.

"We are very excited," Bryson said about being able to host robotic competitions in the area through the JROTC program.

He enjoys the robotics team because of the "ahh ha" moment his students have when they find their place in both a self-esteem and career perspective.

"I enjoy the moment of seeing how all of a sudden a light has come on and everything in the room has changed," Bryson said.

He said they often talk about soft skills because of a family dynamics. Part of the conversation includes how to think critically when doing mechanical things, simple basic things.

"It's great that we are able to bring back the old school skills that went away with shop class," Bryson said.

He explained this year was an above average year with the robotics team, especially since it began winning awards six weeks after starting in December.

"They found this niche and found they enjoyed doing it," Bryson said.

One of the many moments that stuck out this school year occurred with the first activity he assigned, something the students had to work on at home.

"They still called me that evening because they wanted to work," he said of a Friday night.

Bryson said he owes the great year to his students believing in him and he believing in his students. At the beginning they set standards and they did not waiver from them.

"They gave it their all and they made it," Bryson said.

The best part of the STEM program is he is helping instill a passion for education and excitement for learning.

"That is one of the magical things about STEM. They can see it. They can see how math adds up . . . how it changes angles and changes speed," he said of his students understanding concepts through hands-on learning.

In addition to the robotics team, Bryson founded the "I Will" Mentorship Foundation. He said being involved in the community he realized there were few opportunities offered that were not athletic driven for after school activities.

His foundation is an afterschool enrichment program revolving around STEAM -science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

"We are making great strides," Bryson said about breaking generational poverty and academic achievement gaps.

On average the foundation touches about 35 to 40 youths around Lee County.

In 2017, Bryson was a Foundation for Lee County Public Schools Golden Apple awardee.

Bryson is a North Fort Myers High School alumni, a youngster who was born and raised in Lee County.

"It gives me pleasure to bring something back to the community. Something other than sports. We have more to offer than just sports," he said.



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