'Troops to Teachers' a success in WV, officials say
Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More veterans are expressing an interest in becoming teachers in West Virginia every year, said a state Department of Education official.
Through the "Troops to Teachers" program -- a national initiative to encourage veterans to become teachers in low-income communities -- more teachers have been hired in West Virginia than most other states, said state coordinator Robert Mellace.
"We've definitely helped veterans pinpoint an area where there's a need," Mellace said.
From 1994 to 2008, an average of one teacher per year was hired through the program in West Virginia, Mellace said. Since then 40 have been hired, and Mellace expects a few more hires by the end of the year.
Last year that success translated to West Virginia being the 12th-best in the nation for placement from the program.
"Right now it's going really well," Mellace said.
The program offers three key benefits to veterans, he explained. First, it provides counseling for veterans that show how the skills they have acquired in the military can be used in a classroom setting. It also provides information on job openings, with Mellace constantly contacting each of the state's school systems for hiring information.
Veterans who qualify can receive up to $5,000 to cover the cost of teacher certification programs or a $10,000 bonus to teach in a district serving a high percentage of low-income students, according to the program's website. To receive such benefits, job candidates must agree to teach for at least three years at those schools, the site states.
There have been 850 veterans from all over the world who have expressed an interest in the West Virginia program, and more than 315 have registered in the state, Mellace said.
"They're leaders. They're role models," he said about why school systems would want to hire veterans.
Mellace hopes to find more veterans interested in the program during a career fair this week in Charleston. A presentation about "Troops to Teachers" is to take place Thursday during the fair at George Washington High School.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. veterans will have the chance to meet with 51 employers about job and educational opportunities. Non-veterans are also welcome to attend, but Mellace said he put an emphasis on finding employers interested in hiring veterans.
"We just want to find a way to help veterans in general," he said.
There are roughly 170,000 veterans in West Virginia and more than 22 million nationwide, according to the most recent Census.
For a complete list of vendors attending the event, and more information about the Troops to Teachers program, visit http://wvde.state.wv.us/vetfair.