From One Front Line to Another – Proud to Serve Again as Teachers

“My very first sergeant said, ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.’ That’s what I want to teach the kids.”

Serving their country doesn’t stop for veterans taking advantage of Troops to Teachers, a program that assists recently separated veterans to become educators in the US public school system.

From the battlefield to the classroom, over 20,000 veterans nationwide have successfully transitioned to a career in education, having traded in their military uniforms and bulletproof vests for textbooks to become certified teachers supported by the Troops to Teachers program.

Troops to Teachers (TTT) program was established in 1993 as a joint venture between the US Department of Defense and the Department of Education to assist transitioning Service members and veterans in beginning new careers as K-12 school teachers in public, charter, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.

The primary goal of the program is to “recruit, prepare and support eligible military personnel to transition to a new career as public school teachers in targeted schools.” Those schools – elementary, secondary or vocational – usually serve students from low-income families throughout America, especially in vital subjects that have been affected by teacher shortages such as science, math, and special education.

TTT helps recent veterans navigate teacher certification processes, military benefits, and the other logistical headaches of switching careers. The program provides counseling and referral services for participants to help them meet education and licensing requirements to teach and subsequently helps them secure a teaching position.

A network of state TTT offices assists eligible service members along the path to becoming a teacher through counseling, certification information, resume writing, and employment leads.

Based on teacher shortages, priority is given to individuals with educational or military experience in math, science, or special education. With the help of the Troops to Teachers program, former service members may be able to help meet this need by turning a passion for teaching into a rewarding career.

When a service member is coming to the end of their time in the military, Troops to Teachers offers a fast track program that allows them to get certified in the state they wish to teach and get into the classroom fairly quickly.

The program’s supporters and participants say military service provides the discipline and life experiences that translate well to teaching. A social-studies teacher in Clayton County, Ga., who spent nearly 24 years in the Army including service in Afghanistan said, “My very first sergeant said, ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.’ That’s what I want to teach the kids.”

An Army medic at a field hospital in Afghanistan, treating soldiers wounded in combat said, “This is harder than Afghanistan! Teaching is definitely a different battlefield, I can tell you that.” From medic to musician, this veteran uses his experiences in Afghanistan to help him be the best orchestra director that he can be. “It’s those things that the military brings to the classroom – leadership, inspiration, and self-discipline.”

If you want to be the best, you hire the best. The Troops to Teachers veterans in our nation’s classrooms are some of the best teachers you will find.

Men have accounted for about 80 percent of the program’s participants thus far. The service members are a more diverse group than the general teaching population, and it’s these experienced, well-rounded military veterans that make the best teachers.

Depending on the path the veteran chooses to take, they can obtain their certification the traditional way through a four- to five-year plan at a college or university, or they can be placed in a classroom with a senior supervisory teacher and obtain their certification as they obtain teaching hours.

A convenient factor in this transition is the way DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) – the Department of Defense agency that oversees Troops to Teachers – translates a veteran’s military career skills into credits that can be transferred to a transcript.

The way this is accomplished is through an alternative teacher’s certification program, which isn’t unique to the military and is offered primarily through school districts. After DANTES evaluates the veteran’s skills, they then translate them into credits that can be listed on a transcript. Then a set of remaining classes he or she needs to become certified is determined through the alternative teacher’s certification program.

Teaching is probably one of the most rewarding professions because of the profound impact you can have on today’s children. The men and women coming through Troops to Teachers — it is not their second career, it’s their last career. They are proud to serve and this is a way for them to continue to serve their country.

If you want to be the best, you hire the best. The Troops to Teachers veterans in our nation’s classrooms are some of the best teachers you will find.

For more information about the Troops to Teachers program, visit proudtoserveagain.com.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Dr. Katherine Harris

Dr. Katherine (Kat) Harris is a veteran spouse, expat, and former military contractor with over 20 years of expertise in military/family transition, career counseling, higher education, organizational strategic planning, and international relations. She has conducted seminars and workshops for many Department of Army commands, plus many non-profit and community associations. She served as a translator and liaison for American, British, French, and German civilian/military communities in Berlin and Helmstedt, Germany. Academically, Dr. Harris holds a Bachelor of Science in Management Studies from The University of Maryland European Division, a Master of Arts in International Relations from Boston University, and a Doctorate in Education from Rowan University with an emphasis in leadership and higher education in a global context.

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