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WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — The Marine Corps recently selected Williston High School physical education teacher Penny Slagle to participate in its educator's workshop in San Diego.
In February, Slagle joined 32 high school educators, counselors and administrators from North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin for a weeklong synopsis of recruit training at the California recruiting depot and visited Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
"This workshop certainly opened my eyes to what it takes to become a Marine," Slagle told the Williston Herald (http://bit.ly/1drrvKs). "The dedication, loyalty, commitment and sacrifices these men and women make for us and our country is truly amazing."
Educators were greeted at the recruit depot by drill instructors and made to stand on the same historical yellow footprints every Marine has stood upon before entry into recruit training. Visitors received a welcome brief from the commanding general of the depot, ate with recruits in training, received Marine Corps martial arts training and ran on the rugged bayonet assault course.
"Everything we did was a highlight," Slagle said. "We had the opportunity to try out for ourselves some of the physical training, the combat and obstacle courses and learning the teamwork that it takes to survive."
Slagel took a trip to Camp Pendleton for marksmanship training and received hands-on experience with Marine Corps standard weaponry. She also went to Miramar to see the fighter planes and helicopters and watched a show put on by the Amphibious Unit, which she thought was educational. The Marines paid for the entire experience.
"I also found it interesting to hear of the Crucible ... It was just so informative because unless we have a Marine in our immediate family what we know is basically from television," Slagle said. "I would have to say the favorite part for me was the graduation ceremony.
"At this point, we had seen and been told what all of these Marines had been through to walk in front of the grandstand full of family and friends and now they had earned their eagle, globe and anchor."
Raised on a farm in Alamo, Slagle competed in volleyball, track and basketball at the former University of North Dakota-Williston. She was a member of the first women's basketball team at UND-Williston.
She played three sports at Dickinson State University and earned her master's in educational leadership from North Dakota State University in Fargo. After graduation, she returned to UND-Williston, where she became the assistant women's basketball coach under Phil Rabone. After Rabone retired, she took over as head coach until 1992.
Two years later and following a brief stint teach elementary schools, Slagle started at WHS and has incorporated military exercises in her classes ever since, inviting the North Dakota National Guard in Williston into the school gymnasium to conduct exercise lessons.
"I am a supporter of our military," Slagle said, adding that her brother was in the Navy and her nephew in the Marines. Four years ago, she took part in the U.S. Army version of the educator's workshop held in San Antonio, Texas.
Slagle said the educator's workshop with the Marines helped her interact with students who are possible recruits.
"I feel I am much more capable of answering the questions they may have and also an opportunity to share this workshop experience with them," Slagle said. "I also plan to use some of the team building physical training that we got to experience out on the field, into the fitness part of my curriculum. I may have to lighten up on the intensity for my students though."
At WHS, Slagle focuses on "lifetime skills," teaching students activities they can enjoy for years to come.
Students learn roller blading, cross country skiing, curling, archery, skateboarding and fly-fishing, weather permitting.
"The key is to have them active and hopefully spark an interest in something so they get up and get moving," Slagle said.
Taking her new experience back into the classroom, she believes the average citizen has difficulty wrapping their heads around the making of a Marine.
"Twelve weeks of grueling and intense training to build each new recruit into a Marine with such honor, courage and commitment," Slagle said. "...If I had a little more of that, I could become a better teacher."
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