Leaving the military could mean an open classroom door

  • Published
  • By Chrissy Cuttita
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Juggling a variety of tasks, leadership and education are all military experiences that could take an Airman from the base to the classroom after serving.

Troops to Teachers is a government program that helps former military members become public school teachers where their skills, knowledge and experience are most needed.

Recently, the program broke the 9,600 mark in hires according to their latest status report.

Dan Creel, Mowat Middle School computer/reading teacher, took advantage of the program the first year it started in 1994. He retired as a captain from Tyndall and has been teaching in Bay County Schools since. "It seemed like the right thing to do," said the former maintenance officer.

TTT provides transition assistance to military members. The program helps eligible military personnel begin second careers as public school teachers by providing referral assistance, placement services, and for those electing to teach at high-need schools, financial stipends and bonuses.

"Since 2002, participants can receive a stipend of $5,000 toward obtaining teacher certification, and participants are also eligible for an additional $5,000 if they teach for three years in schools serving a high percentage of students from low-income families," said Jim Scavino, TTT public relations specialist.

According to their Web site, www.proudtoserveagain.com, becoming a teacher with the assistance of TTT needs to be viewed as three distinct processes occurring almost simultaneously. First, applicants register with TTT so they can request financial assistance, and then later on fulfill the required three-year teaching commitment in a high-needs district or campus. Next, they must fulfill the certification requirements of their desired state, often by participating in a teacher certification program. Finally, applicants will have the responsibility of finding a job with or without using TTT certification assistance and job hunting advice.

"Probably the biggest challenge potential teachers face is understanding how to become a certified teacher; in other words, obtaining a teaching license that allows them to teach," Mr. Scavino said. "Every state has different policies toward becoming a certified teacher and TTT can help by giving state-specific information."

Some individuals, like Mr. Creel, begin working in a school before becoming fully certified. While working on his two-year master's degree program in Math, the retired officer was hired as a teacher's aide at Springfield Elementary.

"I remember the principal saying I was a half-price deal," said Mr. Creel who was given a 50 percent teaching salary incentive from TTT at the time. "I didn't have any trouble finding a job."

Running an aircraft maintenance unit gave him skills he still uses in his teaching career. Computer experience and classroom management, he said, were learned in the military.

"At the aircraft maintenance unit there was a lot going on just like there is in the classroom," Mr. Creel said. "I had to handle personnel issues, like writing evaluation reports and create flight schedules and run basic operations of the shop. Now, I have to teach while disciplining students and preparind lesson plans."

Multitasking is a skill to master for the retired officer who not only teaches sixth-grade students reading year round, but also teaches computers to two eighth-grade classes and assists a small number of students who have difficulty with critical thinking in math. Additionally, middle school students are learning to multitask and Mr. Creel often has to mentor them.

Because he took a professional teaching exam at the base education center before retiring, he was one step ahead of being certified. The center still offers that test here at Tyndall AFB five times a year, following a nation wide schedule.

After getting his degree, Mr. Creel was hired by the elementary school and eventually transferred to his current position. Finding a job was as easy as knowing the people he knew during his time as a teacher's aide and looking on the Bay County school district's online job postings.

Mr. Creel said his current job is beneficial and rewarding. He often tells his students about his 26-year active-duty experience, something he said was a lot of fun.

"School systems are finding former military members to be very valuable assets. They bring leadership skills, a concern for their students (similar to their troops) and a lot of experience to the classroom," said Dr. John Gantz, TTT chief. "Schools are looking for a stronger presence of male and minority teachers at the elementary level. A lot of kids are being raised by one parent, and schools are looking for positive role models to help fill that void."

TTT is administered by the Department of Defense and Department of Education and managed by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support. The program is explained in complete detail online at www.proudtoserveagain.com. For additional information, call (800) 231-6242.