Adds Advance Hiring Feature

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2007 - Military members with a desire to mentor and shape young minds now may not have to face the anxiety of an uncertain future when retiring or separating from the military.

In a new twist on Troops to Teachers, a program that has long been producing teachers out of the ranks of the military, qualified servicemembers can now be hired in advance to work as teachers in certain school districts.

The Hire in Advance Program, which has launched in Las Vegas, Denver, and Newark, N.J., guarantees teaching jobs for eligible military up to three years before they retire or separate from active duty, Wayne Rees, of Mt. West Troops to Teachers in Las Vegas, said in an interview.

Troops who qualify for the Hire in Advance program can send in applications and interview with school officials, who can officially hire them up to three years before they leave active duty, Rees explained. During that time, military members can finish the necessary schooling and teaching requirements, creating a seamless transition between active duty and the start of their new careers, he said.

The program was unveiled in Las Vegas in June, and the first two Hire in Advance Program agreements were awarded. Since then, Troops to Teachers has been working with states, especially those with high-needs areas, to expand the program, Rees said.

"We absolutely are offering it to every state and every school district, with the hopes that we can help our military personnel have a seamless transition from the military into teaching kindergarten through 12th grade public schools," he said.

To qualify for the Hire in Advance Program, servicemembers must have a bachelor's degree and meet other Troops to Teachers requirements, such as having served six or more years in the military honorably. The program offers counseling and referral services for each state, as well as a $5,000 stipend to help pay certification costs. Servicemembers may also qualify for an extra $5,000 if they are hired at a high-needs school.

Air Force Maj. Dayton Rogalski, chief information officer for the Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., hospital, was one of the first servicemembers awarded a hire in advance agreement. His 23-year military career ends in about three months, and he hopes to become a business education teacher at the high school level, he said.

Rogalski, who has teaching experience from his time in the military, said he wants to become a teacher because he believes youth are the future of America. "The Troops to Teachers program has enabled me to pursue teaching through their support and funding," he said. "They have delivered on all the points they presented."

Rogalski said he believes servicemembers make good teachers because they bring military values, patriotism and cultural experiences to the classroom. Rees agreed, noting that teaching fits a need many servicemembers have to give back to the community.

"Because they have been dealing with and leading young men and teaching them, it's a natural transition," Rees said. "This is a program that has a variety of skill sets that will translate from the military into civilian life."

Troops to Teachers and the Hire in Advance Program are both open to military spouses as well, Rees said. Spouses are not eligible for the two $5,000 stipends, but can receive up to $600 to help with certification, he said. Teaching is a convenient career for military spouses, he pointed out, because the demand for teachers ensures employment, even with frequent moves.

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