Troops To Teachers Program Looking To Ease Teacher Shortage In Oklahoma
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma Department of Education is hoping veterans can help fight our teacher shortage crisis.
The program is called Troops to Teachers, it's been around for decades, and Oklahoma is one of only a handful of states awarded more than a million dollars in grant money for the program.
With this new funding, state leaders are hoping to see a huge increase in veterans in the classroom over the next five years.
Shane Callahan served in the Air Force for four years as an Airborne Surveillance Technician.
"I just wanted to serve my country. My father had served. My grandfather had served. And I wanted to do my part," said Callahan. "I flew on the AWACS jet, and my job was to track enemy aircraft."
Now he's tracking progress in the classroom.
"Every kid has those few teachers and coaches that made a change in their life and I wanted to be that guy,” said Callahan.
The program streamlines the teaching certification process and is one way the State Superintendent is hoping to fill vacancies in classrooms.
"We have a crippling teacher shortage in Oklahoma,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
Last school year, there were nearly 2,000 emergency teaching certifications compared to just 32 in 2011.
"We are emergency certifying, really, thousands of Oklahoma individuals who do not have a background in education, and have never been a teacher, have never been an instructor, " said Hofmeister.
She says veterans are a step ahead with critical characteristics like self-discipline, communication, leadership and global perspective.
"It makes us more appreciative of how blessed we are to live in the United States. And I think that point of view is sorely missing in high schools and college campuses across this nation," said Callahan.
The Department of Education is hoping to place 70 new veterans in the classroom by this fall. There's also a $10,000 bonus for former military members who are placed in high-poverty areas.