Troops to Teachers assists with career transistion

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs
  • 347th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
With the emphasis the military puts on continuing education, there is a program to help service members come full circle from student to teacher, using their military experience to make a difference in the lives of young people. 

The Troops to Teachers program offers assistance to retired or former military members, to include Guard and Reserve. First introduced by then-Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, the Troops to Teachers was established in 1994 as a Department of Defense program. 

The program's primary objective is to help recruit quality teachers for K-12 schools that serve low-income families throughout the country. Troops to Teachers helps relieve teacher shortages in subjects such as math, science and special education, and assists military people in making successful transitions to second careers in teaching. 

"Folks who retired from the military are successful, quality people," said Bill Kirkland, program manager for Georgia Troops to Teachers based in Atlanta. "Most of the time, (retired military members) know where they want to be. There is a certain maturity (level) they bring to the classroom," he said. "They often have kids of their own, and they know how to teach and manage them." 

Military members also possess other skills and attributes useful in teaching, such as managing a classroom environment, counseling, a strong work ethic, work experience and life experience, Mr. Kirkland added. 

Although most Troops to Teachers applicants already have at least a four-year degree, there are options for those who have not yet completed a bachelor's degree. Veterans with required time in service and 30 credit hours in an area that's taught vocationally at the high-school level, such as auto body, electronics, construction and food service, may also be eligible for the program. 

The time in service requirement is a minimum of six years for active duty or 10 years as a drilling Reservists or Guardsman. Veterans who have been medically separated since January 2002 also qualify. 

"It's not a short cut as far as certification," said Mr. Kirkland. "You still have to meet the same requirements as everybody else." 

The Troops to Teachers program is, however, a foot in the door at many schools and assists financially as well. Program managers such as Mr. Kirkland may also assist in identifying potential positions for teachers within the state. 

The program offers up to $5,000 to help pay for the cost of a teaching certification. In addition, the program offers a federal grant for teachers working in a high-needs school for a total of up to $10,000 in assistance. A high-needs school is defined as having at least half of its population qualifying for the free or reduced school lunch program. 

The Troops to Teachers program assisted 162 people last year to become teachers in the state of Georgia, with 23 now working in the Valdosta City and Lowndes County school system. 

James Cole separated from the Air Force in 2005 and took advantage of the Teacher Alternative Preparation Program, which enables individuals with a bachelor's degree or higher to teach early childhood, middle-grades or secondary education. 

"Most states have this program, because there is such a shortage of teachers," said Mr. Cole. "It's three weeks (of training) in the summer, with monthly follow-ups." 

Mr. Cole compared the crash course in teaching to "drinking from a fire hose" in which he learned critical teaching skills such as lessons on planning the curriculum. 

The former Moody captain taught social studies and coached the basketball and swim teams in rural Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Cole has since moved to Colorado after his wife was offered a job at Schriever Air Force Base. Because of his teaching experience and accreditation, he is licensed for five years and can resume teaching at his new location. 

Mr. Kirkland said teaching is a very rewarding career field, because it gives you the chance to touch someone's life in a positive way. 

"Teachers make a significant impact at some point in your life," he said. "On the list of people we'll never forget, there's at least one teacher who comes to mind." 

Mr. Cole agreed. "Teaching is really a demanding job," he said. "(It) is a calling and has to be something you really want to do. There is a huge need (for teachers) and it's nationwide." 

Mr. Kirkland hosts a monthly class at Moody during the Transition Assistance Program. For more information, call the Education Office at 257-3150, visit the Georgia Troops to Teachers Web site at or call 404-232-2608 or 2622.