|FORT MEADE, Md., July 15, 2008 – About 60
servicemembers preparing to retire or separate from the
military got the word loud and clear during a recent
Transition Assistance Program workshop here: If Uncle Sam
can't have you any more, the public school system would love
to have you.
"School districts around the country
are desperate for the maturity and experience troops have
gained through military service," said Robert Henry, who
coordinates the Troops to Teachers Program for Maryland and
the District of Columbia.
The Defense Department launched the Troops to Teachers
program in 1994 to attract departing military members into
teaching positions in low-income and underprivileged school
districts. Fourteen years later, the program has placed more
than 11,000 former troops into public schools nationwide,
Henry told the group. Almost half the TTT teachers work in
high schools, 30 percent in middle schools and about 20
percent in elementary schools. More than 80 percent of them
are men, compared to about 25 percent of traditional
To qualify for the program, candidates need a bachelor's
degree and teacher certification that the Troops to Teachers
program can help finance, Henry said.
A retired Navy petty officer first class, Henry called the
Troops to Teachers program a great opportunity for former
servicemembers who enjoy working with young people and want
to continue serving their communities.
He called former troops prime candidates for teaching jobs
-- particularly in math, the sciences and special education
-- who bring a unique quality to their classrooms.
“They have real-world experience, and they bring a level of
maturity, along with good communications skills,” he said.
“Most have a sense of service and want to continue to give
back to the community.
“But beyond that,” he continued, “troops bring a sense of
commitment to mission accomplishment. For them, failure is
not an option. There's a kind of mentality they bring to the
job that means they will do whatever they need to do to get
something done and to do it right.”
Participants in the program say military service gave them
the skills they needed for the job: discipline, patience and
a readiness to face challenges. They also report a personal
satisfaction that comes with working with young people,
Seventy-five percent of TTT teachers were still teaching
five years after going through the program, Henry said.
After 10 years, 60 percent were still involved in education,
as teachers or administrators.
Among them is Ernie Jackson, who returned to his hometown of
Port Jervis, N.Y., in 2000 to teach fifth grade and special
education. Jackson, who retired as an Army infantry officer
with the rank of lieutenant colonel, said he found the
Troops to Teachers program a good way to transition into the
Jackson said he drew on his 20 years of military experience
as he moved into the classroom, tapping into the management
skills the Army taught him, along with the ability to work
under pressure and deal with people. He said he applied the
Army's way of training troops, emphasizing group dynamics
and team building -- “skills you need in life, but that you
can't get on the Internet or on a cell phone.”
Jackson said that as he rose through the education ranks,
becoming a vice principal, then a principal, he got the
satisfaction from his interactions with his students.
“You change kids' lives,” he said. “It's a great opportunity
to make a difference in a young person's life. And there's a
tremendous amount of gratification that comes with that.”
Now a principal who hires teachers, Jackson said he seeks
out former servicemembers through the Troops to Teachers
program. “Having time in the military gives them a definite
edge in my book,” he said. “I find there are a lot of
parallels between teaching and the military. We need
servicemen and women to become teachers.”
Jackson isn't alone in praising the Troops to Teachers
program. School districts rave about the teachers they
recruited through the program, Henry told the Fort Meade
troops. Ninety percent of principals report that TTT
teachers are more effective than traditional teachers,
particularly in classroom management and student discipline.
Eight-nine percent of principals said TTT teachers have a
greater impact than other teachers with equal teaching
experience on student achievement.
“The school districts that have us all want more of us,”
Henry told students at the Fort Meade transition workshop.
“It's a great opportunity to build on the military skills
and experience you have built, and to use them in a
meaningful way as you begin a new career.”