Toppo: Teaching an Excellent Career Path for Veterans

Among the many career paths that veterans leaving the U.S. military might consider, teaching might not top the list. Yet according to Greg Toppo, writing for the USA Today, as more veterans enter the profession, their obvious success in the classroom is now making schools around the country work harder to attract more veterans to [...]

Among the many career paths that veterans leaving the U.S. military might consider, teaching might not top the list. Yet according to Greg Toppo, writing for the USA Today, as more veterans enter the profession, their obvious success in the classroom is now making schools around the country work harder to attract more veterans to the classroom.

Toppo cites the former soldiers’ “grit and perseverance” as factors in what makes them so attractive to school administrators. Teaching demands the ability to stick to the job even in the most difficult situations — and who is better equipped to do that than a soldier?

Nearly a third of new teachers are gone from the profession within five years because they are either underequipped or unwilling to deal with its rigors. Schools are seeing that those who have spent years dealing with the stress of combat are not so easily discouraged.

Education officials aren’t the only ones noticing that teaching and the military demand some of the same skills. Teach for America, a group that is known for attracting the most promising candidates into the profession, has now turned its recruiting prowess towards the military, as Toppo points out, just in time for the wind down of military commitments in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Education organizations don’t track the number of veterans going into teaching, but TFA, which began in 1990 as a way to lure Ivy League and other top-tier college graduates into needy urban and rural schools, has seen a fourfold increase in military candidates since 2009. Last fall, its cadre of servicemembers-turned-teachers grew to about 100.

Toppo writes about one of those 100 – former Army Staff sergeant Shaun Murphy – who came to TFA by way of 8 years of military service. According to Murphy, who grew up in one of the tougher neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York, going back to school and teaching after leaving service was a natural fit for him and for many other veterans. After all, didn’t a lot of them leave their neighborhoods to create better lives for themselves and would therefore be perfect candidates to go back to the schools they escaped to make lives better for those who came after them?

Teaching could also prove a viable career path at a time when the employment picture for newly-minted veterans is far from rosy.

The latest findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a sobering picture for Iraq and Afghanistan vets: As of November, they had a 10% unemployment rate, higher than the 6.6% overall rate for veterans. Among female veterans of the two wars, the unemployment rate is 12.9%, nearly double the 6.9% unemployment rate for women, both military and non-military.

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