White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers
I am extremely honored and humbled to stand before you today. Over the past 30 years, I have served my country in different capacities. I grew up in a small town in Southern West Virginia. My father was a minister and my mother was a homemaker. Our home was rich with love for each other. We were taught that we should always be willing to help our fellow man. By doing so, we would be rewarded two fold. I come before you today to report that they were right. I have been fortunate to serve my country as a soldier and now I serve my country as an educator. Being a teacher has always been a dream of mine. But due to my financial limitations I really didn't think it would be possible.
After graduating from high school, I found few options open to me. I couldn't afford college and thought that the Army would provide me with the opportunity to save the necessary funds to continue my education. Little did I know that this would be my first opportunity to serve my country. Over the next 21 years I was assigned to units patrolling the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, Fort Carson, Colorado and in Germany. During this time I never gave up my hope of someday becoming a teacher. I knew I could do it. I began to attend night school and over a 5-year period I was able to earn my bachelor's degree.
As my military career grew to an end, I nervously began to plan for my second career. I still yearned to teach, but felt that I would never have the opportunity. One day I saw a notice from Troops to Teachers. I knew then that my prayers could be answered. I quickly applied to the program and received an acceptance letter. I then applied and accepted a position in the Baltimore City School System as an elementary school teacher. Troops to Teachers provided me with the financial assistance needed to move my family and me from Colorado to Maryland. I was also able to use this assistance to complete the necessary course work to receive my teacher certification. Without this assistance I wonder if I would have made the successful transition to the classroom and finally make my dream come true.
Teaching is a profession that we cannot take lightly. We are charged by our community to prepare young minds to be our future leaders. I accept this responsibility. I love what I do. There are many members of the Armed Forces who can answer the call to serve. Troops to Teachers can provide the bridge needed for those wishing to step into the classroom. These members bring a wealth of experience. The military trains its members to be leaders, to accomplish missions given, and above all to take care of those below them. These skills can be a great asset when working with children. Our students deserve to have teachers who are dedicated and caring. These needs are most noticeable in our urban school districts like the one that I work in. Staff turnover can be high and working conditions can be trying. Nearly a quarter of all Troops to Teachers participants work in Inner City schools. Since its inception in 1994 nearly 80 percent are still in the classroom proudly serving.
Over the past nearly nine years I have continued my own education and am now a special educator working with students with special needs and their parents. This presents a difficult but rewarding challenge. I am extremely proud of the work that I do. To be able to work at the job that has been a dream come true is beyond comprehension. I admire and respect my colleagues who show daily what it takes to educate our children. We work as a team, to accomplish our mission. Our reward is seeing the light go off in the minds of our students. We must remain focused even during the most trying times. But above all we must take care of our children. These are skills that I learned while serving in the Army. As you can see they also are beneficial in the classroom. I am very proud to serve my community now and hope that my light will be a beacon for others who believe that teaching is their calling.