FORT RUCKER, Ala. – In the coming months, an influx of Soldiers will begin the year-long process of transitioning out of the military, and one program can help Soldiers utilize Army abilities by engaging students as teachers.
Troops to Teachers is a U.S. Department of Defense program that helps eligible military personnel begin a new career as teachers in public schools where their skills, knowledge and experience are most needed, said Sol Greear, Troops to Teachers southeast representative and consultant.
"This seminar can help Soldiers transition into a field where there is a desperate need," he said. "Teachers get a sense of accomplishment through their work – the feelings you get from that are priceless."
The next seminar will be held April 10, from 9-10:30 a.m. in Rm. 112, Bldg. 4502, in the Army Education and Transition Center.
Through the Troops to Teachers Program, according to the program's website, eligible military veterans may receive a stipend of up to $5,000 to help them pay for state teacher certification and a one-time bonus of up to $10,000 for agreeing to teach in a high-needs school.
The seminar is held once a month at the education center, and Greear tells attendees what it is like to be a teacher, methods of certification, common misconceptions and eligibility.
"Soldiers will learn that they need to ask themselves questions. 'Do I really want to be a teacher? Why do I want to be a teacher? What do I need to need to decide to prepare myself to be a teacher? How do I go about becoming a teacher?'" said Greear.
"Some have a notion that once they learn what they need to teach, that's all that they have to do, but it's not so simple because education changes all the time," he continued. "The way they have to teach changes all the time, the field changes all the time. They get a license to learn just like the students they are teaching."
Troops to Teachers helps the Army, said the consultant, because it puts people into the classrooms that are going to be preparing future Soldiers for service. They are going to be the ones making an impact on the future generations.
"Soldiers who make good teachers are those who are very patient, good listeners and are more concerned about others' accomplishments than their own," he said. "Today, discipline in the classroom comes into question, and that's where their military training comes into play.
"Army values really help create people that would be wonderful teachers. And Soldiers can instill the Army values into their students and can be great role models along with appropriate disciplinarians," he added.
Because certain previous careers work out great in the classroom, most states, said Greear, have a system to get certified by alternative routes. Troops to Teachers helps Soldiers find those routes and helps them understand what it takes to get an undergraduate degree. It also helps them figure out what they need to do to get certified as teachers by using the school and experience they have already obtained.
"Soldiers can use the education benefits currently available to them to go to school to become teachers or anything else they want to," said Henry Eagle III, Fort Rucker education services officer. "Soldiers make excellent teachers because they have had experience dealing with all sorts of people from all over the world. They are usually very culturally aware and have a better worldview than (others).
"Hopefully, that will rub off on the children," he added.
But that is not the only thing that troops can help their students with, said Greear.
"(Veterans) can show the children that (have problems at home) how they can be successful in spite of the terrible burdens that many of them have to bear," he said. "That they can overcome any obstacle and can have a career as long as they work hard for it."