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Florida teaching certification to benefit CCAF instructors

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFPN) -- Qualified instructors from the Community College of the Air Force can now take a state-issued subject-knowledge exam to meet requirements for K-12 teaching certification in Florida, negating the need of additional schooling, after Florida legislators recently amended their educator certification statute.

The chancellor of K-12 education for Florida, Dr. Cheri Yecke, along with Ron Burton, director of Florida's "Troops to Teachers" program, spoke about the amended statute while visiting the Community College of the Air Force headquarters here recently.

The new Florida provisions allow CCAF instructors to meet Florida's general knowledge, professional preparation and teacher competence requirements, providing the CCAF instructor holds at least a bachelor's degree, has taught at least two full-time semesters and has passed at least one of Florida's subject-knowledge exams.

"We are very excited about the new Florida statute," said J.R. Breeding, chief of Licensure and Certification Programs at CCAF. "This opens the door for countless Air Force Airmen who serve or have served as a CCAF faculty instructor, completed the CCAF Occupational Instructor Certification and desire to teach K-12 in Florida. We feel Florida was the first to step up to the plate to do the right thing, and we applaud the Florida Department of Education in their efforts. We hope other states will follow suit in time."

Dr. Yecke, who was named chancellor in 2005, said the instructor requirements of CCAF already met two of the three required qualifications of Florida educators.

"CCAF's faculty development is closely aligned with colleges of education curriculum providing training in learning theory and instructional strategies," she said.

According to Tech. Sgt. Michael Purnell, a CCAF Campus Affiliations regional manager, CCAF has a very rigorous faculty development program that instructors must -- complete in order to receive the Occupational Instructor Certification, including:completion of three semester hours of CCAF-approved Instructor Methodology course work;
-- completion of 12 semester hours CCAF Teaching Internship;
-- have at least 2,000 hours of documented practical experience teaching a CCAF; course
-- having at least two years teaching experience as a CCAF instructor;
-- being subject-matter qualified in the CCAF courses assigned to teach;
-- holding an associate's degree or higher-level degree from an accredited institution; and
-- recommendation by the affiliated school commander, commandant or Professional Military Education flight chief

"The strongest part of their development, as with all teachers, is after they enter the classroom," Dr. Yecke said.

"The advantage CCAF instructors have is that their experience is probably in the most diverse classrooms in the country," she said.

"All of their classrooms contain 17-, 18-, and 19-year-old students from all socioeconomic backgrounds who bring the same learning issues from their high school classroom into the Air Force classroom," Dr. Yecke said.

CCAF has been working with several state Departments of Education and civilian educational institutions offering teacher certification programs to enhance recognition of the occupational instructor certification and gain advanced certification placement for CCAF instructors.

"Through Air University, the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force, it is extremely heartening to see civilian recognition of the level of quality we have in our military training professionals," said Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz the Air University commander.

"This change in the way Florida certifies people who have been CCAF instructors recognizes the caliber of people we have throughout Air University, and specifically in CCAF and its 102 affiliated schools," he said.

"This type of partnership will help the public schools in Florida by capitalizing on the teaching experience the CCAF instructors bring to bear, and it will also enhance our instructors' credentials by giving them options after their Air Force careers. Finally, this is a fabulous win for CCAF, because it will help us recruit the best and brightest; everyone wins," General Lorenz said.

"We are confident other states will follow suit," he said.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley praised the program because of the doors it opens for members interested in teaching after separation from the Air Force.

"The new Florida statue is a major milestone for CCAF and breaks down barriers that previously deterred qualified Air Force instructors from pursing certification to teach K-12 as a second career," he said.

The Troops to Teachers program, designed to assist military members into second careers as educators, has benefited our country's educational system by producing stand-out teachers, said Mr. Burton, Troops to Teachers program manager for Florida.

He cited as an example the 2002 National Teacher of the Year, a 22-year Army veteran who came to teaching through the Troops to Teachers program.

"Air Force instructors are among the most committed and capable anywhere," said Col. Thomas Klincar the CCAF commandant.

"Florida's decision to accept CCAF instructor faculty development training towards a state teaching certificate now allows our instructors to serve just as ably on the home front as they have on the front lines. Florida is the first to open the classroom door to CCAF faculty. We're working hard to open doors in the other 49 states."

The Community College of the Air Force is accredited through Air University by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and awards the associate in applied science degree after a student successfully completes a degree program designed for an Air Force specialty.

Community College of the Air Force is the only two-year institution exclusively serving Air Force enlisted members.

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