Sandy educator gained perspective,
sense of patriotism through military service
When Dennis Lane, 43, left high school, he didn’t feel ready for college — or many other parts of adulthood. So, he decided to enlist. And not only did his time in the service help fund his education when he went to college later, but it taught him to see life with a broader perspective.
“I wish I could say there was this deep patriotic pull to it, but it was really the ability to get out,” Lane explained.
Lane grew up in Redmond and always wanted to travel and see new things. So, the Air Force was one way to do that. It also allowed him additional funding to pursue his occupational dream of working in science education. He also had several family members who served in various branches, including his father, brother, and grandfathers.
“I think the Air Force opened so many doors, and I would say it gave me perspective,” Lane said. “So much of youth is focused inward. The military gave me that outward perspective. It also taught me a sense of community. I still have my friends from the military. That sense of patriotism also wasn’t there to start, but it was built.”
Lane started stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, then he served in Kuwait and Afghanistan from 2000-2004. He was in Southwest Asia during 9/11.
“It was obviously a very different experience,” Lane said. “We were in a tent in the middle of nowhere in Kuwait when it happened. I honestly couldn’t understand at first. I was so focused on my job at the time. Immediately, we went to almost war-time conditions. It didn’t really register until I came back.”
While in the service, Lane worked with air traffic control, helping those in the air navigate missions and identifying aircraft, and this job took him somewhere new almost every 3-4 months.
When he returned to the U.S., Lane worked a stint for Homeland Security and was in Korea for a year before deciding his military time should end.
“I loved my time (and) It was a great honor to serve,” he explained, but he didn’t feel continuing his military career was what he saw for himself long term.
As a child, Lane dreamed of being a singing science teacher. While the musical aspect of this didn’t pan out, when Lane retired from the Air Force, he went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in earth science and a bachelor’s degree in education from Oregon State University. He later earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in education, both from Concordia University.
“I love science education (and) it truly was on my heart to be an educator in science,” he said. “Even in the military, I was always on the education side, working with airmen to do training and evaluations and exploring the places I was (stationed).”
Once he secured his degrees, Lane started his educational career as a science and robotics teacher in Sandy for the Oregon Trail School District. Lane has worked for the district for 16 years, transferring his skills to the district office in 2020 to help teachers navigate using technology in the classroom as the COVID-19 pandemic sent schools to an online format.
“It was the hardest decision of my life getting out of the military,” Lane explained. “I think that experience has given me perspective, order, and structure, and I have definitely taken that back in my own way to education. In the bigger picture, it’s still about: “What’s our mission?” And now our mission is students.”
On being honored as a veteran, Lane offered the following: “I think we love to say: ‘Thank you for your service,’ but I say ‘thank you’ to the civilians back home for building a community worthy of protection. We’re all in service to each other all the time in one form or another.”