September 8, 2007

'Troops to Teachers' offers many benefits, opportunities

Staff Sgt. Dale A. Mullin studies teaching material that will help in completing his Master of Education degree at Liberty University. The supply sergeant from HHC, 1st Bn., 116th Infantry, who is enrolled in the 'Troops to Teachers' program, received a $6,000 stipend to assist him in becoming certified. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jesse L. Houk, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

By Sgt. Jesse L. Houk
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Soldiers and Airmen in the National Guard have been given many titles throughout the years. Among the numerous names that are given, Citizen-Soldier and Citizen-Airmen accurately describe the composition of people who decide to don the uniform. A piece of the individual is tied to their community and the other part of them is committed to defending the freedom of the commonwealth and country.

The Virginia National Guard understands this and tries to support members of the Virginia Guard as they try to improve themselves as a citizen. Among the bonuses and educational benefits offered, there are two programs that, for the most part, have been overlooked.

"Troops to Teachers" and "Spouses to Teachers," two programs that offer financial assistance to Guardsmen and their spouses, have been flying under the radar for quite some time.

“The awareness of this program always concerns me because we do a lot of briefings, but then get a lot of calls from people who were surprised that we even existed,” said Joe Wargo, director of Virginia "Troops to Teachers."

In fact, there are only 14 troops in all of the Virginia National Guard that are participating in the program.

Staff Sgt. Dale Mullin, supply sergeant of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry in Lynchburg, is one of the 14 guardsmen enrolled in "Troops to Teachers." He is pursuing a Masters of Education degree at Liberty University.

“Troops to Teachers was the catalyst for me working to become a teacher,” said Mullin. “I totally endorse it.”

There are a total of 37 colleges or universities in the state of Virginia that are approved to run a teacher preparation program with the state headquarters located at Old Dominion University.

Not all guardsmen are eligible for the program. Those eligible include troops who have retired or will soon retire from the National Guard, possess or are eligible for an honorable discharge, were separated not earlier than Oct. 1, 1990 with six or more years of service, or are currently serving and have 10 or more years of total service.

Although "Troops to Teachers" was created in 1994 as a Department of Defense program, it was refocused to accommodate the "No Child Left Behind Act" of 2001.

The primary purpose of "Troops to Teachers" is to help recruit quality teachers for schools that serve low-income families. The areas that are being focused on are math, science, special education and other high-need subject areas.

Troops to Teachers is a program that allows Guardsmen to make a difference and get rewarded at the same time.

“There is a financial incentive for joining 'Troops to Teachers,'" said Wargo. “It could pay $5,000 toward getting your license and an additional $5,000 for what we call a ‘bonus school’ so the total package could be worth $10,000. Far more rewarding, I think, is the ability to work with kids and have the opportunity to shape their lives for the future.”

“I hope to display leadership and an ability to mentor the youth,” said Mullin. “I want to be a good male influence and to add solid ethics. There aren’t a lot of male role-models for children in schools today and I hope to change that.”

Guardsmen, through "Troops to Teachers," have the chance to invest in the lives of children and the community and make a difference.       

For more information on "Troops to Teachers" or "Spouses to Teachers" contact them at http://www.odu.edu/troopstoteachers or call 1-800-560-4317.

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