After years of serving in the military, being a flight instructor and the commander of an air base in Naples, Italy, Pre-Calculus and Integrated Math III teacher, Frank Yasment takes on his 19th year of teaching at Bonita Vista High School. Growing up in Upstate New York, Yasment recounts his aspirations from third grade and how they led to his bachelor’s degree in Economics from the United States Naval Academy and his masters in Business from the Naval Postgraduate School.
“My background is very diverse and so I look at teaching totally different than most teachers. I grew up in a family of 10, very, very poor and I lived next to a big air force base. That air force base used to fly fighters over our house every day and so I’d look up and I could almost touch those guys. I could see their little orange helmets, and I said I want to do that. So I looked at the background and in order to do that from a family of 10, you had to have a college education, that was when I was seven,” Yasment said.
With military school being his only option, Yasment looked into the Air Force and The Naval Academy as they were both flying in comparison to West Point and Annapolis. After comparing both programs Yasment chooses the Navy over the Marines as he believed their flight program had more sophistication. At the Naval Academy, attendees obtain a four-year degree in either math or science, as reflected by Yasment’s degree in Economics, and are required to stay in the military at the beginning of their junior year. Upon completion of the Naval Academy in 1975 Yasment transferred to flight school.
“Flight school is a very demanding evolution and getting out of flight school is very difficult. However, I had just come from an institution where the demands at our time were so phenomenal it was a piece of cake for us. The transition is very easy because if you’re coming out of the Naval Academy, you’re used to working your tail off six days a week, so the flight program, I thought, was very easy,” Yasment said.
After graduation from flight school, Yasment spent 12 to 15 years in Navy squadrons, flying airplanes and helicopters. Then he became a flight instructor in Pensacola Florida where he was stationed for a number of years before being transferred to Cuba.
“My first tour of duty I was in Cuba, I spent time at the Guantanamo Naval Air Station as an intelligence officer in the military, which was probably one of the most interesting careers I had. When I left Guantanamo I couldn’t leave the country for 8 years because my security clearance was so high, but it was very enjoyable and from there I was in three navy squadrons before I went to Naples Italy as a commanding officer of an air station,” Yasment said
While stationed in Italy, Yasment flew multiple multimillion dollar airplanes. During his stay, they also held the G7 summit where Yasment met the current president of the United States at the time, Bill Clinton, and was responsible for him and his visit. While responsible for the president’s visit, Yasment met white house staff and Hillary Clinton, whom he thought would become the next president.
“I had the opportunity because I was the commanding officer, and I got to know the secret service and the presidential pilot very well. He said sir, what would you like to do, and I said I’d like to visit the president’s airplane, and he said absolutely. So we went on there and it was probably the biggest thrill of my life, so I know what goes on when they get in that airplane, they can do anything and communicate with the world, it just blows your mind,” Yasment said. “I looked at what the country had given to me, they gave me a Naval Academy which is a half a million dollar education, they gave me to flight school which was about a 2 million dollar education, they gave me a couple of masters degrees, so they had given me basically, everything. It made me everything who I was and I thought I owed a little bit back to the country. That’s a little bit old-fashioned and the best way to do it is to educate students in the process, so the best way to do that is to give something back.”
His original plans were to teach for one or two years and then potentially fly for an airline, such as Southwest. Having taken higher level mathematics in the Naval Academy, Yamsent had planned to teach a math or science. After his initial two years, Yasment says he continued to teach math as he found it to be fun. His background as a flight instructor influences the manner in which he conducts his classes.
“As a flight instructor, I look at students the same way. First of all, we do a brief, the brief tells the student, flight student or the high school student, what we are going to be doing and how to do a certain problem, and then after we practice that in class. Homework is that student going out and executing and being able to show me he can fly that airplane, so practice, practice, practice makes perfect, perfect, perfect,” Yasment said. “You can watch me all day with problems on the board, and unless you actually go out there and do it in the form of homework you’re not going to be able to do it. The successful student does homework every day, the successful pilot listens to the flight instructor and goes out and does exactly what he was told to do during the pre-brief.”
Yasment equates a pilot to a student and a flight instructor to be synonymous with a high school teacher in the classroom. As a teacher, Yasment has many expectations for his students, one of them is standing for the flag.
“I think you know if you talk to anyone that has fought for the flag, you fight for people’s ability to stand up or do not stand up, and that’s why we do, we are in a country where you have your own opinion and you have your own freedoms, but I think the least you can do is respect the flag which in most cases gives you everything that you have in this country,” Yasment said.
Through his travels to other countries, Yasment recounts that many of the liberties available in the United States are taken from citizens in other countries. He sees the flag as a symbol of respect.
“He is very adamant about everyone standing and saying the pledge. He just always says in his room you have to stand for the pledge of respect. Because he was in the service I can see how he feels very disrespected if students don’t stand. But it’s not something I personally agree with him for,” senior and Precalculus student Katherine Tan said.
For the past two years, Yasment has won Best Dressed Teacher, what students say is well deserved as he wears a suit and ties every single day. Yasment says the transition from his uniform in the military to what he wears for his teachers uniform was very easy as essentially it is the same thing, a coat, and tie.
“In the military when you walked into a military space, there was always someone in charge, there was no doubt when you walked into a military space there is the lutenist, there is the commander, there is the captain, somebody is in charge. When you walk into a classroom, you immediately should recognize who’s in charge and that individual in charge should not only be an individual who obviously who looks like a teacher, but he should dress and act like one,” Yasment said.
Yasment encourages students to develop habit patterns while they are in high school, in preparation for college where professors do not give students reminders, as he does in class. As a student one is responsible for their classwork and homework and with this comes motivation, a discipline Yasment hopes to instill through his class.
“He really emphasizes the fact that we have to work in class, that there’s no excuse. There’s no saying ‘oh I can’t do it’ and that is really motivational to me because usually as teens we kind of throw ourselves back and just say oh we can’t do this, but hearing it from a teacher, even though he’s kind of strict and his vocabulary is more military inclined, coming from a family that is very strict too, I understand him and it motivates me to keep going,” senior and Precalculus student Josue Solano said.
According to Yasment in order to succeed in college one must be motivated and complete all their work. This will lead to good education, he refutes that the more education on receives the more successful one will be in the country.
“I’ve been here for so long and I’ve seen so many teachers and students come and go, and the fact is the only thing that changes is not the students but the time. the key is taking education seriously, educations are the big equalizer in this country. no one cares who your dad is, no one cares who your mom is, no one cares what your political persuasion is, all I want to know when you come in to m and look for a job is where did you go to college, what is your education,” Yasment said.