Trending Topics
Sponsored Content

Former police officer turned teacher uses experiences to help students

Educator finds new purpose helping to mold students at historic, cost-free, private residential school in Hershey, Pa.

Sponsored by

Courtesy photo

By Paul Gaspich, Milton Hershey School Law, Public Safety and Security teacher

I am so blessed and appreciative to be the Milton Hershey School (MHS) Law, Public Safety and Security teacher. I knew my experiences in the United States Army would prepare me for my career as a Derry Township police officer and Pennsylvania State Police trooper, but I never realized how much those experiences would assist me in being an effective teacher at a private residential school in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The seven Core Values of the United States Army are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. These values resonate with me 35 years after three drill instructors instilled them in me at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

I strive to earn my students’ respect through my actions and demonstrate I truly care about them and their future. My job is to model professionalism and push them past their comfort zones so they can achieve their goals.

The MHS Sacred Values—Commitment to Mission, Integrity, Positive Spirit, and Mutual Respect—serve a similar purpose. These core values are instilled into every MHS student, from pre-K through 12th grade. I consistently tie our Sacred Values into daily lessons and conversations so students remember to use them while navigating life’s trials and tribulations.

Without detailed, clear, and specific communication to each member of the team, missions can fail. As a teacher, it is imperative I provide real-life meaning for each lesson. Students must understand why we are working so hard and how it will impact them now and in the future.

At MHS, we stress the importance of consistent and clear two-way communication. Students advocate for themselves in a professional manner without fear of reprisal. They are expected to utilize critical thinking skills to find information to support their advocacy. The Law, Public Safety and Security class gives students the opportunity to speak in front of their peers. They critique each other and provide positive feedback and—more importantly—constructive criticism. They hold each other accountable for their actions and classroom management.

Structure, self-discipline, and a “mission first, people always” mindset, which was forged in the military, allows me to focus on the important aspects of life. I embrace life with a positive mindset. I utilize that same mindset in my classroom, where students focus on the tasks at hand and mission completion.

In the military, you are pushed to mental, physical, and emotional limits. You learn to balance many tasks, pay attention to detail, persevere through difficult challenges, hold yourself to high standards, and work as a part of a team for the greater good.

All this undoubtedly carried over to my teaching career. I strive to instill the same values in my students and teach them the skills necessary to build successful relationships so they can achieve their personal best.

Creating this demanding learning environment helps students persevere through challenges. We build trust through group projects, presentations, mock trials, and practical skill training and certifications. By working so closely with each other, students gain new perspectives and opportunities to learn. As they realize they must put aside differences and distractions to work effectively as a team, they see value in each other. I love it when students who had never spoken to each other on campus leave my classroom as lifelong friends.


“Creating this demanding learning environment helps students persevere through challenges,” Gaspich writes.

Courtesy photo

The United States military brings people from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds together to serve a common purpose. These experiences help me connect with my students in a more meaningful way because MHS is a very diverse school. It is one of the world’s best private schools, where qualifying students in pre-K through 12th grade live on campus and receive an exceptional educational experience—with all costs covered. Milton and Catherine Hershey founded the school in 1909 with money they earned from the chocolate company. Since then, the lives of more than 11,000 children from qualifying families have been transformed through high-quality education and a structured home life.

In the military, I spent months on end at training and two years deployed overseas, far away from my family support network. Those experiences now help me empathize with MHS students about how difficult it is to be away from your support network and family. I strive to offer experiences that encourage students to build connections that contribute to their sense of well-being, self-confidence, and academic achievement.

Milton Hershey told Literary Digest in 1923, “A man ought to work for what he gets. I was successful in business because I had opportunities. When the opportunities came, I took them.”

I am grateful for the opportunity to push my students using the lessons I learned in the United States Army and the values instilled in MHS by our founder, Mr. Hershey. Through those lessons and values, students can truly understand and appreciate the amazing opportunities MHS offers them. Hard work, communication, and teamwork will fully prepare them to take on the world as Spartans.

Paul Gaspich is a former police officer and currently a teacher at Milton Hershey School, a cost-free private school for qualifying students in pre-K through 12th grade.