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Effort gears up to turn soldiers into teachers

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Troops to Teachers, a program that helps military members transition into teaching careers, is planning for an increase in applicants locally and nationally as the federal government looks to carry out a major reduction in military forces through 2017.

Program representatives will be in the islands next month to conduct informational sessions with interested service members.

Meghan Stidd, Troops to Teachers director for Hawaii and Guam, said the program is preparing for its biggest enrollments since the federally funded initiative began in 1994.

At that time, there was also a force reduction under way.

Much of the interest locally in Troops to Teachers has historically been among service members who plan to seek certification and jobs on the mainland. But a portion of the new teachers is expected to remain in the islands, and officials say that number could increase when the state begins offering an alternative teacher certification program, something it has pledged to do in the next few years.


Troops to Teachers will hold four informational sessions in Hawaii April 2-6 for service members looking to transition to a teaching career. For dates, times and more information on the sessions or to RSVP, call Troops to Teachers at 800-438-6851 or email By the Numbers

>> 14,000: Troops to Teachers members hired by schools nationally since the program began in 1994.
>> 37: Troops to Teachers members hired by Hawaii public schools since 2006.
>> 6: Number of years an active-duty service member must serve to qualify for the federally funded program.
>> $10,000: Amount in bonuses Troops to Teachers participants can receive.

Source: Troops to Teachers

Hawaii public schools have hired 37 Troops to Teachers participants since 2006. Stidd said she expects an increase in hires annually over the next few years, as more Troops participants receive certification and as the DOE looks to intensify hiring, after scaling back during the economic downturn.

The DOE hired nine Troops participants in 2011.

Peter Watterson, a special education transition coordinator at Nanakuli High and Intermediate School, has been teaching for 10 years after receiving assistance through the Troops program.

He said he jumped at the chance to become a special education teacher after retiring from a 24-year career in the Air Force.

"I think my experience in the Air Force molded me into the teacher who I am," said Watterson, who teaches children with severe needs.

Troops to Teachers offers service members up to $10,000 in bonuses if they agree to secure a teaching certificate and teach in schools in high-poverty areas. Participants can also get financial assistance for tuition through the federal government. Participants can apply up to a year before they leave the service.

Since its inception, some 14,000 military service members have moved into teaching through Troops to Teachers. The program is open to those who have served at least six years in active duty or at least 10 years in the Reserve or National Guard. The program does not offer teacher certification, but assists service members in enrolling in a program and links them to job opportunities.

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