YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Spc. Alisha Gibson and Sgt. Vernon Hicks are in the Army, but both may end up doing professionally what they occasionally do now — teaching.

The two chaplain assistants and other servicemembers learned Friday that their experiences in the military could serve them well at the head of the classroom.

William McAleer, Defense Activity for Non-traditional Education Support Far East adviser, lectured servicemembers for an hour on the Troops to Teachers program.

The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, gives financial assistance for training and certification to soldiers wanting to become teachers. Stipends of up to $5,000 are available.

Recipients must agree to teach for three years in a school located in a high-need district.

And bonuses of $10,000 are available to those who agree to teach three years in a school that serves a high percentage of students from low-income families.

Applicants must meet eligibility criteria, such as six years of service in the military and have a bachelor’s degree, McAleer said.

Full details can be found at

College teaching program graduates are sometimes uncomfortable speaking in front of people, but former servicemembers may do it with ease, McAleer said.

That’s because no matter how long someone has been in the military, they probably have done some teaching.

“You are teachers on a day-to-day basis,” McAleer said.

Military personnel also bring integrity, honesty, diligence, loyalty and commitment to the classroom, he said.

Soldiers are not going to get rich teaching, and McAleer passed a sheet of average salaries for starting and experienced teachers in the 50 states.

But “what you do get is that feeling inside” of helping people and service to country, a reason many people went into the military, McAleer said.

“You bring that wisdom,” he said. “You bring that experience. People right out of college don’t have that.”

Minorities are in demand, McAleer said.

There is a need for positive role models in many communities, and former military members show that they can work with people from multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds.

And many have second languages that would help them connect with students, he said.

As of Sept. 15, 24,506 people applied for assistance with Troops to Teachers, and 5,586 have gained teaching jobs at 2,082 schools, program figures show. Another 6,437 are looking for jobs, 532 are still on active duty and 11,951 decided not to enter teaching.

Gibson, 22, said she would like to teach earth sciences in a rural community. She is planning on taking online classes through Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C.

“I love children,” Gibson said. “I want to become an influence.”

Hicks said he has at least four more years in the military, but he has considered teaching. He’s close to earning a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership at Chapman University in Orange County, Calif.

“I’m trying to keep my options open because you don’t know what the future holds,” said Hicks, 38.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now