“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
It’s a testament to America’s schools that, in 1938, as the shadow of war in Europe grew larger, President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt it was necessary to remind the American people of the vital role education plays in preserving our way of life.
But we all know that the institutions we hold so dear—like our education system—are only preserved through the sweat and blood of our military.
Veterans Day is a time to not only say thank you to the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country—in every branch of the armed services—but also to take stock of their accomplishments and our many privileges they have worked so hard to defend.
It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the values that define the military—especially service, sacrifice, and discipline.
And, as states and school districts across the country face ongoing teacher shortages, many are looking to retired service members to bring those values to their schools.
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This summer, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe announced that a $400,000 federal grant would help create a center at the College of William and Mary to support the federal Troops to Teachers program, Education Week reports.
Troops to Teachers, run by the U.S. Department of Defense, provides counseling to retiring military personnel to help them gain the experience and earn the certifications necessary to secure a K-12 teaching position.
As Gov. McAuliffe said in a statement:
“Virginia boasts one of the largest veteran and military populations and is home to some of the nation’s most important military installations…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.”
In 2015, Education Week reports, Troops to Teachers made a similar partnership with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to recruit service members to Clark County School District, which faced a teaching shortage crisis of its own.
Programs like Troops to Teachers hope that just as veterans answered the call to serve their country, they will also answer the call to serve their communities’ children and their families.
In a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs video on the Troops to Teachers program, Air Force veteran Daniel Leija says retired military members can bring a unique perspective to schools:
“I really believe that in veterans—there’s an untapped resource out there of teachers…To me, the most important thing that I can teach a child is to be the respectful citizen that’s going to be stepping out into the community in the future.”
Check out the full video below:
How is your school or community celebrating Veterans Day this weekend? Has your district tapped into the military community as a potential teacher pipeline? Tell us in the comments.