There are several heroes around campus. Some do big things, some do small. One of those heroes is math teacher Mr. Alen Vartan, who is also a veteran. Vartan decided during his junior year of high school he wanted to join the marines and was sent off to boot camp the summer after he graduated. He became active duty in September 1993 and served until September 1997. After passing an entrance exam, he joined the infantry field.
“This was the kind of job where you could travel and see the world a lot more, making it more adventurous,” Vartan said in regards to why he chose to join the infantry.
In one year, Vartan progressed from never having shot a rifle to hitting the 90th percentile in accuracy. In sniper school he was trained by the top snipers sent to Iraq. Once Vartan passed sniper training, he was considered a scout sniper and was one of only four scout snipers in his 300-man unit. He rose to the one-man position of machine gunner one year later.
“When you’re being deployed for six months at a time, your home becomes this naval ship, or I️t could be an aircraft carrier, a tank carrier, a helicopter landing pad, etcetera,” Vartan said.
Since Vartan and other soldiers lived on these ships, duties had to be fulfilled in a 30-day rotational cycle.
“We’re trained killers, but here we are baking bread on a ship with nothing to do because we’re in the middle of the ocean. If you can imagine, somewhere right now there’s someone doing that on a ship,” Vartan said.
Vartan made a big decision deciding to join the military after high school.
“I️ had a really cool history teacher. When we talked about world history and battles, I️ really connected with the sacrifices that were made, and I️ was grateful for what they did for this country. Me being an immigrant myself, I was grateful for what I️ had so I️ felt like I️ needed to do something if I️ was capable,” Vartan explained.
By the end of his four years of service, Vartan had another big decision to make. “The choice was to stay in or to get out. If I️ stayed in, I️ would say, ‘Well, why not do another four, then another four, and another four?’ So I️ figured if I️ were to reenlist now, I️ would have to keep going and finish it off. The other choice was to get out now and go into another career,” Vartan said. Vartan looked up to his commanding officers and wondered if he wanted to live the life they were living or if he should just move on. He wanted to get his degree but recruiters hinted that he wouldn’t be able to get a bachelor’s degree while serving.
It was a big leap for Vartan to go from being a soldier in the marines to being a math teacher. He built his passion for teaching by first training other units where he discovered he enjoyed giving instruction to a group of people and seeing that he could make an impact on many by doing this. As for Vartan’s choice of math over other subjects, he struggled with language because he moved around from country to country while growing up. However, he credits the universal nature of math to his success in the subject. “Making a positive impact through instruction and using my strengths in math to do that are what led me toward being a math teacher,” Vartan said.