The William & Mary School of Education has been chosen to establish a Troops to Teachers center in Virginia to help military veterans and soon-to-be veterans become K-12 teachers, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced last week. The $400,000 grant was awarded from the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), a U.S. Department of Defense agency, through the Virginia Department of Education.
“Virginia boasts one of the largest veteran and military populations and is home to some of the nation’s most important military installations,” said Governor McAuliffe. “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.”
For Gail Hardinge, the principal investigator on the grant, veterans’ skills, leadership experience and commitment to public service make them a natural fit for the classroom. “Teaching is an exceptionally rewarding and far more diverse career field than many people realize,” she said. “With strategic support, veterans can find the teaching career that best fits their skills and interests.”
The Troops to Teachers Virginia Center, housed in the School of Education, will help veterans do just that. Through a statewide outreach program, the center will offer veterans, and those who are within one year of exiting the military, guidance in meeting educational and licensure requirements to enter a wide variety of teaching fields.
The center aims to not only help address critical teacher shortages in Virginia, especially in underserved schools and high-need areas like math and science, but to also help alleviate veteran unemployment.
“The Troops to Teachers grant and center will be a game-changer for so many veterans and soon-to-be veterans across the Commonwealth,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent. “As Virginia and the nation continue to experience a teacher shortage, now more than ever we need more qualified and inspired professionals in the classroom, and that is exactly what this program will help us provide to our students.”
In addition to the statewide outreach program, Hardinge and her team will develop a pilot program to further support veterans in the Tidewater area. They will partner with experienced teachers who will serve as mentors to veterans at various stages in their transition to the teaching profession.
The pilot program will offer veterans three tiers of support. The first will introduce veterans to the teaching professing through career exploration opportunities such as job shadowing, career coaching, credential review and the development of an individualized plan for meeting licensure requirements.
The second tier supports veterans just beginning their teaching careers, providing mentorship from an experienced teacher coach. The final tier provides ongoing services to veterans once they're established in schools, offering continued access to resources and opportunities for professional growth and leadership.
The comprehensive, personalized approach will not only match veterans to best-fit teaching positions, but will also support their success in the critical and sometimes challenging early years of a teaching career. Hardinge’s team of project specialists will include educators and a veteran liaison, who will collaborate with teacher mentors and veterans throughout the program.
According to Spencer Niles, dean of the W&M School of Education, the school’s breadth of expertise and collaborative focus makes it an ideal partner for Troops to Teachers. “With dedicated faculty working in educational leadership, curriculum and instruction, special education, school psychology and counselor education, we’re well-positioned to support veterans as they identify and transition to the educational opportunities that will best match their experience, skills and long-term goals,” he said. “And in return, our community and Virginia’s classrooms will benefit immensely from their perspectives, leadership and selfless commitment to public service.”
Contact the Troops to Teachers Virginia Center at (757) 221-3415 or [[tttvirginia]].