By Alex Siemiatkowski
Defense Information School
Andrea Batts-Latson stands in front of the Visual Communications Department wall at the Defense Information School with her 2015 awards. Batts-Latson won the third DINFOS Civilian of the Quarter, DINFOS 2015 Civilian of the Year and DINFOS Visual Communications Department Instructor of the Year awards.
At age 7, the Defense Information School Civilian of the Year recipient for 2015 knew she wanted to be a teacher.
Andrea J. Batts-Latson told her mother about her aspirations as her mother sipped on her coffee in the kitchen. Her mother then asked, “What makes you want to be a teacher?” Batts-Latson replied, “Because I like teaching.”
As a child, Batts-Latson would use the bar in the basement as her classroom.
“I would line up all of my dolls and stuffed animals, and they would be in the chairs,” said Batts-Latson. “I was tough with homework because I had to do it all.”
Batts-Latson is an instructor for the Digital Multimedia Course at DINFOS and has been teaching here since the end of 2011.
The path to getting to where she is now has changed several times. She has worked in career fields from information technology to accounting. She taught at an elementary school and was a full-time student.
“I have a very vast and diverse background in a lot of different fields. But, they all come together,” said Batts-Latson.
She loves her job as an instructor so much that when her husband asked her if she would quit her job if she won the Powerball, she told him, “Heck, no!”
“Anybody can read a lesson plan and recite it step-by-step,” said Bruce Colkitt, the visual communications department head at DINFOS. “When it is delivered with passion and with the reasons why this is important instead of drilling it into your head, there is a big difference.”
The credentials for the DINFOS Civilian of the Year award include professionalism, curriculum development, ways of learning, teaching, one-on-one counseling with students and a supervisor’s nomination.
The Civilian of the Year award is given to one of the recipients of the DINFOS Civilian of the Quarter award.
Batts-Latson was surprised when she first learned that she had been
nominated as the third Civilian of the Quarter.
During the middle of teaching color theory, one of her favorite courses to teach, DINFOS Commandant U.S. Army Col. Martin Downie, Colkitt and two others came into her classroom.
“I am a methodical teacher, meaning that when I am instructing, nothing else matters,” said Batts-Latson. “The only thing that I am focused on are students and not on the external stuff.”
As the group members approached the front of the classroom to where Batts-Latson was teaching, they asked if they could interrupt for just a moment. Batts-Latson reluctantly agreed and sat down at her desk.
The commandant started talking to the class and said they were there to recognize Mrs. Batts-Latson. She had thought they were going to recognize her co-worker Staff Sgt. Adrian Reece.
“I honestly thought that they were talking about my co-worker because he was about to leave, and he had just earned some award,” said Batts-Latson. “The whole time I am thinking, ‘Oh, OK, cool, they are going to honor him.’”
She began clapping for Reece and then realized everyone was staring at her. Reece then told her she should go up to the front where the commandant was waiting.
“I am like, ‘Why?’” said Batts-Latson. “He said, ‘He is talking about you.’”
Once at the front, she received the Civilian of the Quarter plaque and the whole class began yelling for a speech. Batts-Latson said she had to put her classroom on a break in order to compose herself.
“I am doing all sorts of exercises to get my cheeks to stop smiling and to just get back into it,” said Batts-Latson. “It took a while to regroup, but it was a great honor.”
Batts-Latson was again surprised to learn she had been nominated for the Civilian of the Year and Instructor of the Year awards. This time, though, instead of getting a surprise while in the classroom, she was informed while on leave in December.
“First I wasn’t going to answer the phone,” said Batts-Latson. “I am on vacation. Who is calling me? Then I realized 677. Oh, that’s work.”
When she answered, it was the commandant calling. She said he asked her how her day off was going. He then proceeded to tell her he was in a room with about 400 people and just wanted to let her know that she was the Civilian of the Year.
“I have a super passion for this job,” said Batts-Latson. “I talk about it on Facebook all the time. What is cool is to know they feel the same way.”
Colkitt said he believes that Batts-Latson deserves the awards she received.
“She is so passionate about what she does,” said Colkitt, “not only her love for graphic art design but her love for the students to get it.”
Batts-Latson recalled a time when one of her students was having trouble understanding math. She decided to go about teaching him in a different way and asked him if he liked any sports. The student replied he liked football.
“I went home, and I watched football with my husband,” said Batts-Latson.
While watching the game, she realized she could apply the numbers on the field to teach the student how it applied to math. She said once she did that, he was able to understand.
Batts-Latson enjoys not only teaching and having her students learn but also training her brain.
“I train all the time,” said Batts-Latson. “They call me the Lynda.com queen here. I do Lynda.com, tutsplus.com and Safari books online. I make it a mission to try and train at least two hours every day.”
All these different traits of what Batts-Latson does for DINFOS and her students are what qualified her for Civilian of the Quarter and Civilian of the Year.
Batts-Latson also received the DINFOS Visual Communication Department Instructor of the Year award the same day as the DINFOS Civilian of the Year.
For being the Instructor of the Year, she received a certificate for a movie and dinner. She received a parking space for Civilian of the Year.
Other nominees for Civilian of the Year were Don Smith, Jennifer Hartzell and JoAnn Anderson.
Colkitt praised the Civilian of the Year as a great testimony to how talented the staff is and a testitomy to their passion for teaching students.
“It is not just about a job. It is about getting through to the students and doing the best for them,” said Colkitt.
One thing Batts-Latson does for her students is she thanks them.
“I thank them for giving their time,” Batts-Latson. “They come in, and they want to learn something. I give them that appreciation and, in turn, they give me appreciation back.”