Top Teachers: Lance Teillon

When Lance Teillon considered his next step post-retirement following 20 years in the U.S. Navy, he didn’t have to look far for ideas. His wife’s occupation – English teacher – provided ample inspiration. “It seemed like a worthwhile and fulfilling second career,” he recalled.

Eighteen years later, it’s safe to say he made the right call.

“I have a constant flow of cadets who have graduated come back to talk to me,” said Teillon, the senior naval science instructor for the Varina High School NJROTC. “I give them a chance to talk to the present cadets – and when they tell them to listen to me, because I do know what I’m talking about, it is satisfying.”

Another gratifying aspect of the job is seeing cadets wear their uniforms with pride, he said, “knowing that the uniform is the same as our sailors who are serving this country.” Teillon also enjoys observing cadets as they “try harder at something than they have ever tried at anything in their lives.”

Often, that effort involves practicing for the competition drill team, which requires cadets to come to school almost two hours early every day to practice.

“There is no other sport or club that requires that level of dedication,” said Teillon, noting that the hard work has resulted in a number of trophies, including one for a fifth-place finish among 62 schools in a four-state area.

The job is not without its challenges, of course. Although he was a classroom teacher in the Navy for five years, his students then existed in an altogether different culture from high school students of today. After all these years, he confesses he is still taken aback by aspects of that culture – in particular, the lack of respect.

“I have reminded my students on more than one occasion that this school doesn’t teach rudeness; it is brought from home,” he said.

“I try very hard to make the kids understand how lucky they are to be given the education they are receiving. I tell the cadets that I feel my job is to get them ready to survive in this world after graduation, and if they can stand on their own two feet in this very difficult world, I feel I’ve done my job.

“It is frustrating when I cannot get through to some, and very satisfying when I can.”

Clearly, he has “gotten through” to countless numbers of students, who praise his skill at developing their potential and his insistence on accepting nothing less than their best efforts.

“He teaches more than just naval science,” wrote one student. “He teaches us ethics and general knowledge above and beyond what is entailed in his job description.

“He treats us as young adults.”

Asked to relate a highlight of the feedback he has had from students and their families, Teillon said, “When you have a parent come into your room after their child has graduated, and with tears in their eyes tell you that they don’t know what their child would have done without you -- or that you were their child’s mentor.”

Now, that’s “worthwhile.”
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Each month, the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter conducts support group meetings to provide the community with an opportunity to meet for mutual support and to exchange coping skills. A group for caregivers will meet at 1 p.m. at Chickahominy YMCA, 5401 Whiteside Rd. For details, call 967-2580. Full text

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