Thursday, August 26, 2004

"Spouses to Teachers" to assist military spouses in job hunt

Spouses to Teachers, DoD's latest endeavor to assist military spouses interested in teaching, is serving a similar purpose as the popular Troops to Teachers (TTT) program, an official said.

DoD established Troops to Teachers in 1994, and responsibility for the program was recently transferred to the U.S. Department of Education. TTT was created to help recruit quality teachers for schools that serve low-income families throughout America, according to the Troops to Teachers Web site.

Michael Melo, director of a Spouses to Teachers pilot program in Virginia, explained that TTT laid the groundwork for STT in providing individual state information. Melo is also the director of Virginia's TTT program.

STT is currently a pilot program in six states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Virginia. The program was prompted by military spouses who were already teachers or interested in teaching, but were facing difficulties finding certification requirements and job information when they moved, Gary Woods, acting director of DoD educational opportunities, said.

Melo and Woods said the program would offer information, counseling and guidance to eligible, interested individuals. Initially, eligibility is limited to those with a bachelor's degree who are spouses of active-duty service members and members of the Selected Reserve or Individual Ready Reserve on extended duty.

It will also offer limited financial assistance to help defray the costs of meeting state certification requirements in the pilot states.

On the future STT Web site and in offices that will be handling the program, the goal is to provide information on teacher-certification requirements within a state, what kinds of jobs are available, and what kind of reciprocity exists between the system they're currently teaching in and systems they may potentially be transferring into, Woods said.

These sources also aim to make spouses aware of additional course requirements for certification or credentialing within the new state, and make sure spouses know where they can turn for potential financial assistance in order to pursue those courses.

Because of that established network, the Virginia STT office is able to help transferring spouses become aware of how they may need to augment their certification, as certifications are not always accepted in a different school system, Melo said.

"Because of the network we have from Troops to Teachers with the Department of Education, with the school districts, with the colleges, we're able to provide that information that the spouses need on what they need to do to be certified in a particular state," Melo said. "If it has reciprocity, there are always intricate little details that it doesn't necessarily transfer over completely."

Even before the Web site has been posted, the response has been positive, Melo said. "We're actually surprised at the number of phone calls we've already received."

Already, four spouses are in the Virginia pilot program, and one has entered an academic program that will lead to licensure.

While the program serves spouses interested in teaching, it also helps ease the burden of a national teacher shortage. The benefits, however, are not limited to the schools that stand to get quality teachers out of the program. The students reap rewards, as well.

Like the former troops who take up chalk and eraser, military spouses bring some of the same skills to the classroom.

"The military spouse has a variety of life experiences that they've gained as a military spouse," Melo said. "So when they come into the classroom, they bring those same experiences so they can impart those life experiences in the learning process of the students."

Military families can come out ahead, too. Woods said this provides an opportunity for a spouse to pursue a degree and a career that will provide the family a better income over time. "One of the things that we're primarily interested in right now is providing access to careers for spouses that will enhance the family bottom line," he said.

Melo and Woods agree that the national TTT Web site is the best source of information right now. A Spouses to Teachers Web page is being established with a projected start date of Sept. 1. It will link from the national TTT site.