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Program asks vets to serve in second career.

When it comes time to tire from the military, many veterans miss out on another opportunity to serve their country. The Department of Defense and Department of Education have teamed up to help those patriots find another avenue of service, teaching America's youth.

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The Troops to Teachers program recruits servicemembers leaving the military to teach critical subjects such as math, science and special education, in low-income areas, where they're needed most.

"Our motto is 'proud to serve again,'" said Rick G. Bergman, the manger of California Troops to Teachers and a DAV life member, "and it is our mission to recruit former military personnel to one of the most important professions, second only to serving in the military and preserving our liberty and our way of life."

With contacts in every state, eligible veterans receive help obtaining teaching certification and finding teaching jobs across the country where they are needed most. Financial assistance and bonuses are available if the veteran agrees to teach in targeted areas with children from low-income families.

"It's what our nation needs. It's what our children's children need," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Brautigan, under-secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. "It shows students the importance of selfless service, to be counted, to stand up for something and to make a difference."

Lisa White, a veteran of eight years in the Air Force, went through the program to become a fifth-grade teacher at Lamont Elementary School in Maryland near Washington, D.C.

"What surprises me the most is the children: the way they think and the things they say," White said. "A lot of times we don't give them credit. They see and hear more than we think. They're just amazing."

Financial assistance may be provided to qualified servicemembers in the form of a stipend of up to $5,000 for teacher certification expenses for which individuals must teach for three years in a "high-need" school, or they may receive a bonus of $10,000 to teach for three years in a school serving a high percentage of disadvantaged students.

This assistance is above the GI Bill and does not affect any other benefits.

There are service and education eligibility requirements. A veteran must be retired, within a year of approved retirement, or have six years of active duty service and be part of the Selected Reserve, or be separated for a physical disability.

If coming from a reserve component, the veteran must be retired from the Selected Reserve. If currently serving in the Selected Reserve with 10 or more years of creditable service towards retirement, the veteran must commit to serving an additional three years or until eligible for retirement, or be separated from the Selected Reserve due to a physical disability.

A veteran who retired or separated from service more than four years ago is not eligible. The service must be honorable, without qualifications.

To participate, the veteran must hold a bachelor's or advanced degree from an accredited institution at the time of registration for academic teacher referral or have the equivalent of one year of college with six years of work experience in a vocational or technical field. There are some states that have specific requirements for vocational and technical teacher referrals.

An application can be found at any military base education center or online at www.proudtoserveagain.com.
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Title Annotation:Troops to Teachers program
Author:Chenelly, Joseph R.
Publication:DAV Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:561
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