When I was in Iraq, I often had the chance to watch AFN, Armed Forces Network, and became aware of wonderful programs that were available to soldiers that had a direct impact on civilians. One of my favorites was the Troops to Teachers program, an educational track that was specifically designed to empower members of our military who had finished their contracts or careers to finishing their degrees in education, and transitioning to the fight for our kids’ freedom and future by becoming their teachers. The subtitle for the program was, “Proud to serve again.”
I can think of fewer things that could be more positive in the classroom than having a soldier protecting their minds and bodies. I can think of few things that would make schools safer than having someone who would run into the fray as did the soldiers in France when they foiled a terrorist attack. And, while I come from a long line of teachers, both male and female, there is one thing that male soldiers can do in particular, and that is, even if only in a small way, to satisfy what can only be described as “daddy hunger.”
Here in the Southeast, the Troops to Teachers movement is alive and well. According to an article in USA Today in 2013, “… school administrators are increasingly finding that many former service members make good teachers — and they're pushing to bring veterans into the mainstream of teacher recruitment, with hopes that their grit and perseverance can both improve student performance and lower teacher turnover rates. Nationally, about 30% of new teachers leave the profession within five years.”
That turnover rate is something that teachers who were troops can greatly reduce, if for no other reason than they know how to keep a commitment even when leadership is poor, circumstances are difficult, supplies are limited, and the future is uncertain. Teachers who possess what is known as “command presence” have the ability to inspire their students to sit up straighter just by walking in the room.
One soldier said, "My days as an enlisted U.S. Army soldier and alter working for the U.S. Military as a counselor and advisor taught me the value of leadership. Leadership, in my mind, is without a doubt the most important attribute an individual can have when leading a squad platoon, flight, division or classroom toward an objective.”
The beauty is, soldiers who have experienced poor leadership can choose to become the leaders in the classroom that perhaps they never had. They can help kids avoid all kinds of high risk behavior, because they have faced down the worst possible gangs, thugs, and injustices, and they understand that, at the end of the day, you fight for the man on your right, you fight for the man on your left, and you fight for the victory of your kids in the classroom.
For more information on the specific Troops to Teachers program here in Alabama, go to troopstoteachers.net/States/Alabama.aspx, or contact Troops to Teachers recruiter Bill Kirkland at 1-800-745-0709.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner