First Lady Announces Tenfold Increase in Troops to Teachers Funding
American Forces Press Service
FORT JACKSON, S.C., May 9, 2001 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.
First lady Laura Bush speaks about the Troops to Teachers program in front of Pinckney Elementary School at Fort Jackson, S.C., May 8, 2001. Photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Reed, USAF.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
First lady Laura Bush announced May 8 that her husband has requested a tenfold increase in funding -- from $3 million to $30 million -- for the Troops to Teachers program next year.
"I hope that sends a message about how important it is to encourage people to choose teaching, and particularly how important it is to encourage retiring military," Bush said in an American Forces Information Service interview during her visit here.
The first lady was in South Carolina to speak about the federally funded Troops to Teachers program and to commemorate National Teachers Day. She spoke to students and faculty at the post's Pinckney Elementary, a DoD school.
"Men and women of the United States military, you answered the call to serve your country in the finest armed services in the world," Bush said to the several hundred Fort Jackson soldiers in attendance. "So as you prepare to leave the military, we ask you to turn your attention to the homefront, to Uncle Sam's classrooms, where we need your service as teachers."
The Troops to Teachers program is run by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support. The current program provides referral assistance and placement services to military personnel interested in becoming teachers after their military service.
Under the president's increased budget request, the program would begin paying participants up to $5,000 to help cover the costs of a teacher certification program, White House officials said. Some participants would also receive a $10,000 bonus if they accept a job in a "high-needs" school district, such as in a very rural area or an inner-city school. Those receiving either financial benefit would then be obligated to teach for at least four years, they said.
Bush said she believes many of the attributes that contribute to success in the military lead to success as a teacher.
"You're tremendous role models with a sense of duty, honor and country that our children would do well to emulate," said Bush, a former elementary school teacher. She noted that more than 4,000 retired troops have become teachers through this program, but that the country will need "tens of thousands" of new teachers in the next decade.
Many people in the audience echoed the first lady's sentiments. Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Bowman, an instructor at the Army recruiting school here, said he hopes Bush's support will get units to work harder to sell the Troops to Teachers program to retiring and separating service members. "It says a lot that she's here on an Army base to talk about this," he said.
Col. Kevin Shwedo, commander of the 1st Basic Combat Training Brigade here, said he hopes the first lady's support of the program will inspire nationwide interest.
"The idea of taking a lot of motivated trainers who are great around young people and putting them in the classroom will give students the mentorship and the guidance that will make superb students," he said.
His 12-year-old son, Ryan, a sixth grader at Pinckney, was a little more succinct than his dad. "It's really cool," he said of the Bush visit.
In her speech, Bush asked separating service members to accept another challenge, that of working toward America's future. "I think retiring military personnel who choose teaching as a career will find that it is a very rewarding career," she said during her later interview. "Working with young people is one of the most rewarding things people can do."
Pinckney fourth-grade teacher Macie Burgess said teaching is definitely a challenge. "It's not just workbooks anymore," she said. "Every teacher I know works hard. Kids today know a whole lot more than kids did when I was coming (through school). They've gotten so technologically advanced."
She noted that children flourish in a structured environment. "And, of course, the military is nothing but structure," Burgess said.
Bush cataloged some of the Troops to Teachers program's lesser-known benefits during the AFIS interview. Having military people in close contact with the nation's youth might boost recruiting, she said. Some young people might be so impressed by a teacher with military experience that they might decide to join themselves.
She also said the program brings many men into teaching, a profession traditionally dominated by women. The first lady noted that men comprise about 86 percent of the people who have become teachers through this program.
"In this time of a lot of single parents (and) a lot of children at home without a dad, it's so important to bring men into the schools for children to have good role models," Bush said.