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Program aims to help military spouses interested in teaching

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Spouses to Teachers, the Defense Department's latest endeavor to help military spouses interested in teaching, is serving a similar purpose as the popular Troops to Teachers program, an official said.

DOD officials established Troops to Teachers in 1994, and responsibility for the program was recently transferred to the U.S. Department of Education. Troops to Teachers was created to help recruit quality teachers for schools that serve low-income families throughout America, according to the Troops to Teachers Web site.

Troops to Teachers laid the groundwork for Spouses to Teachers in providing individual state information, said Michael Melo, director of a Spouses to Teachers pilot program in Virginia, and director of Virginia's Troops to Teachers program.

Spouses to Teachers is currently a pilot program in six states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Virginia. The program was prompted by military spouses who were already teachers or interested in teaching, but were facing difficulties finding certification requirements and job information when they moved, said Gary Woods, acting director of DOD educational opportunities.

The program would offer information, counseling and guidance to eligible, interested individuals, they said. Initially, eligibility is limited to those with a bachelor's degree who are spouses of active-duty servicemembers and members of the Selected Reserve or Individual Ready Reserve on extended duty.

It will also offer limited financial assistance to help defray the costs of meeting state certification requirements in the pilot states.

On the future Spouses to Teachers Web site and in offices that will be handling the program, the goal is to provide information on teacher-certification requirements within a state. They will also have information on what kinds of jobs are available and share that between the system they are currently teaching in and systems they may be transferring into, Mr. Woods said.

These sources also aim to make spouses aware of additional course requirements for certification or credentialing within the new state and make sure spouses know where they can turn for potential financial assistance to pursue those courses.

Because of that established network, the Virginia Spouses to Teachers office is able to help transferring spouses become aware of how they may need to augment their certification, as certifications are not always accepted in a different school system, Mr. Melo said.

"Because of the network we have from Troops to Teachers with the Department of Education, with the school districts, with the colleges, we're able to provide that information that the spouses need on what they need to do to be certified in a particular state," Mr. Melo said

Even before the Web site has been posted, the response has been positive, Mr. Melo said.

"We're actually surprised at the number of phone calls we've already received," he said.

Four spouses are in the Virginia pilot program, and one has entered an academic program that will lead to a license.

While the program serves spouses interested in teaching, it also helps ease the burden of a national teacher shortage. The benefits, however, are not limited to the schools that stand to get quality teachers out of the program. The students reap rewards as well.

Like the former troops who take up chalk and eraser, military spouses bring some of the same skills to the classroom.

"The military spouse has (a) variety of life experiences that they've gained as a military spouse," Mr. Melo said. "So when they come into the classroom, they bring those same experiences so they can impart those life experiences in the learning process of the students."

Military families can come out ahead, too. This provides an opportunity for a spouse to pursue a degree and a career that will provide the family a better income over time, Mr. Woods said.

"One of the things that we're primarily interested in right now is providing access to careers for spouses that will enhance the family bottom line," he said.

The national Troops to Teachers Web site is the best source of information right now, they said. A Spouses to Teachers Web page is scheduled to launch Sept. 1. It will link from the national Troops to Teachers site.

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