Department of Defense-run program Troops to Teachers puts veterans back to work in service of their country, but this time, in education.

Started in 1993, the Troops to Teachers program helps service members and veterans begin new careers as K-12 school teachers in public, charter, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Troops to Teachers provides counseling and referral services for eligible participants to help them meet education and licensing requirements to teach and subsequently helps them secure a teaching position. Since its founding, Troops to Teachers has helped more than 20,000 veterans successfully transition to a career in education.

The program has a few clear goals:

  • Reduce veteran unemployment
  • Improve American education by providing motivated, experienced, and dedicated personnel for the nation's classrooms
  • Increase the number of male and minority teachers in today's classroom
  • Address teacher shortage issues in K-12 schools that serve low-income families and in the critical subjects -- math, science, special education, foreign language, and career-technical education.
Since 2012, the program has placed more than 800 teachers in Virginia schools alone. In May, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) received a grant of nearly $400,000 to assist military veterans and soon-to-be veterans in becoming teachers. The grant was provided by DANTES, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, the Department of Defense agency responsible for overseeing the Troops to Teachers program.
The grant will be used to establish a Troops to Teachers Center in the School of Education at the College of William & Mary. The center will provide guidance and assistance to veterans and to those who are within one year of exiting the military who are interested in pursuing a teaching career in Virginia. Virginia has the fourth highest active-service population in the country, with 117,084 active service members in 2016. According to data from 2015, Virginia is home to more than 700,000 veterans. In a press release about the grant, Governor McAuliffe said:
Virginia boasts one of the largest veteran and military populations and is home to some of the nation's most important military installations... That is why the Troops to Teachers program is so important to the military-connected citizens of the Commonwealth. This program will help address the teacher shortage in Virginia and provide our veterans with opportunities to bring their experiences and skills into the classroom. These are the kind of innovative opportunities that will allow our nation's heroes to succeed in the new Virginia economy."
Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs John C. Harvey, Jr., says that veterans are the perfect fit for careers in education. Harvey says, "With their leadership skills, strong work ethic, and dedication to any mission or task, our veterans are a natural fit for teaching ... Many of our veterans experienced firsthand the benefits of great teaching in the military at every stage of their career and saw the profound difference a dedicated teacher can make in a student's life."

One Success Story Among Many

In June, the Washington Post published an article highlighting one veteran who now has a successful career as a music teacher in Virginia. Clayton Allen was an Army medic at a field hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan. To unwind after treating fellow soldiers for gunshot wounds or injuries sustained during IED explosions, Allen would play the violin. Now, Allen is the orchestra conductor for one of Virginia’s largest student music programs at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax County. He oversees more than 300 musicians in middle and high school and conducts seven student orchestras. [caption id="attachment_2056" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Troops to Teachers Clayton Allen dons a new uniform for his career as an orchestra conductor. Photo by The Washington Post.[/caption] Allen told The Post that he "always tell [his] parents, ‘This is harder than Afghanistan.’" Allen actually used to teach music in Florida, but when he was let go, he joined the Army. After six years of active service, Troops to Teachers helped Allen prepare once again for a career in education. With the help of the program, "he learned how to relax during interviews, and a coach helped him rewrite his résumé. The program also helped him find job openings, such as the one he filled at Lake Braddock Secondary." What do you think about this program? Are veterans, especially combat veterans, suited to be educators? Let us know your thoughts below.

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