First Lady's Interest Spurs Troops to Teachers Program
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 5, 2001 DoD's Troops to Teachers program used to be low-key -- until first lady Laura Bush energized it this year by making it a personal cause.
Military people are "tremendous role models" whom American youth "would do well to emulate," she said earlier this year while visiting a DoD school at Fort Jackson, S.C. The former elementary school teacher challenged service members nearing retirement: "Turn your attention to the home front, to Uncle Sam's classrooms, where we need your service as teachers."
At that time she also noted that President Bush had asked Congress for a 10-fold funding increase for Troops to Teachers, from $3 million to $30 million.
"Mrs. Bush's interest in the program has really generated a tremendous amount of response in the military," said John R. Gantz, Troops to Teachers program manager. "We've seen a dramatic increase in the application rate and in the contacts that we've had.
"All our state offices have said she has generated tremendous interest among the retired military population looking at teaching as a second career," he added.
"If funding comes through, I think we'll be able to easily bring 2,000 to 3,000 really quality teachers to public education each year," he said.
Gantz said Troops to Teachers was created in 1994 to help departing service members obtain second careers during the military downsizing of the 1990s. The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support at Pensacola, Fla., oversees the program.
Key components of the program are the 25 state Troops to Teachers offices, generally housed in state Departments of Education, Gantz said. These offices, he said, help former military personnel make the transition to teaching by providing advice and assistance on certification and employment.
Early on, Troops to Teachers offered participants $5,000 for certification training and provided incentive grants to school districts to hire military veterans as teachers, Gantz said. Today's program largely consists of job referral and placement services and has placed more than 4,000 retirees in teaching positions nationwide since its inception, he said.
Many retired officers and noncommissioned officers are ideal teachers, having served as instructors in a variety of fields during their careers, he noted. The former service members also bring traits of teamwork and shared values into classrooms, he added.
Gantz said Troops to Teachers alumni "are older and not jumping into" teaching as an experiment. Consequently, he said, former military seem to remain in teaching longer than those who come into the profession from more traditional avenues.
"Seventy-five percent of our people are still teaching after six years," he said. The attrition rate was 50 percent among new teachers from other sources during that same time, he added.
Eligible applicants must have served for at least six continuous years on active duty prior to release from service, have a service record that will lead to an honorable discharge, and apply no later than one year after release from active duty, Gantz said.
Most applicants must have a bachelor's degree in the subjects they want to teach, he said. Other applicants may possess technical training that translates into vocational- technical teaching opportunities, he added.
Many Troops to Teachers applicants earned their degrees while in the military, Gantz said, adding that some started by taking College Level Examination Program tests, and evaluations of military training for college credit available through DANTES at unit education centers.
He said the program also helps applicants identify teacher certification programs and employment opportunities in the states where they want to teach. The applicants bear the cost of certification training, Gantz said, most often by using their Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits or paying out of pocket.
"Often times, states will require some student-teaching as well," he added.
Gantz said reserve component members may use the placement assistance services provided by Troops to Teachers. They should check with program officials on application criteria, he added.
For more information about the Troops to Teachers program call the DANTES toll-free number at 1-800-452-6616; visit the program Web site at http://www.dantes.doded.mil/dantes_web/troopstoteachers/index.htm?Flag=True; or write to the Defense Activity of Non-traditional Education Support, 6490 Saufley Field Road, Pensacola, Florida 32509-5243.
Visit the "American Forces Information Service Web Special Report on Education" web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/education/ for an indepth look at efforts to ensure America's military is ready for the challenges of the future.