It’s really tough for the spouse of a service member to find employment when they are moving every two, three or four years. The Spouses to Teachers program, however, may eliminate that problem for many military families.
The program is an offshoot of the Department of Defense’s popular Troops to Teachers program, which was established in 1994. Now under the guidance of the Department of Education, the TTT was developed to turn departing service members into teachers once they left the service and wanted to start a second career. The Spouses to Teachers program falls under the umbrella of TTT.
“The program was promoted 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, director of DoD educational opportunities.
It was just natural to expand that to cover spouses of military families. Joe Wargo is the director for the Spouses to Teachers program for Virginia. The commonwealth was one of six original states involved in the pilot STT program back in September 2005, which included California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and Texas. It now includes 16 states.
“This is a great opportunity for spouses to get teaching credentials,” Wargo said. “There are numerous spouses getting into the teaching profession.”
The number of states involved isn’t the only thing that has gone up. STT now pays up to $600 for all testing for licensure, an increase from $250 back in 2005.
“It’s a great avenue for spouses to get their credentials. And we’re not just strictly financial. We also offer counseling,” Wargo said.
Have credentials, will travel
Rachel Gardner has dual bachelor’s degrees in history and philosophy, and is now working on her master’s in secondary education with an emphasis on social studies.
She is the wife of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Gardner, who is currently doing his disassociated sea tour on board aircraft carrier George Washington as the Naval Flight Officer for the E2 Hawkeye community.
Gardner decided to go into the education field because teaching is transportable.
“Everywhere you go, there is going to be a school,” she explained. “It’s not like a graphic design artist, who might not find a marketing shop. There are certain professions that no matter what area, there will be jobs. We haven’t lived in a community yet that had an overabundance of teachers.”
While working on her master’s degree, Gardner was assigned to work as a graduate assistant at the Military Career Transition Program office located at Old Dominion University. That was where she found out about Spouses to Teachers program.
“MCTP was designed to help military and military spouses attain careers that were either military or non-military. It’s one place that was designed to help military and military spouses earn their degrees, go through a master’s program, get certification plus licensure in either elementary or secondary education,” she said.
Even though Gardner found the program late in her education journey, the $600 comes in handy, especially after tuition, books and other funds.
“I never want to see another No. 2 pencil in my life,” Gardner said. “I’ve taken four tests in the past 18 months, so it really adds up. With STT, it’s one less thing to worry about because they’ll pay for the tests.”
Besides the financial assistance, STT also provides “phenomenal” networking opportunities.
“I found out more options and benefits and programs that were available than I ever found out in the previous 10 years through MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) and ombudsmen. Not only are they (STT counselors) very knowledgeable about their own program, but other programs as well,” she said.
Marjory True is the program adviser for Virginia’s STT. She’s a military spouse who served as the ombudsmen for her command. Her husband is FC1 Dennis True aboard aircraft carrier Dwight Eisenhower.
Since STT started in 2005, 1,000 Virginians have numbered among the 3,600 spouses who have gone through the program, with 500 being hired in one of the 16 STT states. Those who went to the 34 other states not in the program and were hired were not tracked.
“All of our spouses who are overseas now qualify for the program, regardless of which state you come from,” True said. “So if you are from Alaska and are based overseas, you qualify, even if Alaska doesn’t have an STT office in that particular state yet.”
There has been a lot of interest in the program, with more than 17,000 inquires.
“The biggest concern with spouses is getting the program completed in a timely fashion if they are being transferred so they can get the licensure required for that state,” True said.
Those in the STT program may also inquire about taking the Department of Defense license to teach at DoD schools throughout the world.
Not everyone who goes through the program may be interested in teaching. And that’s OK, True said, who is the daughter and sister of schoolteachers. “We have spouses who show an interest in private schools or post-secondary education and we can counsel them on the basics if they want to be a college professor or remain in pre-K-12.”
“Spouses who come into my office may be considering teaching, but not sure teaching is for them. We sit down and counsel them whether it is or not,” True continued. “If you want to go into the education system, but the classroom isn’t for you, there are other positions within the school system where you need licensure as well.”
The counseling True and others provide allows for a program-specific listing of courses for a student to take.
“We do have very positive feedback from spouses,” True said. “We work with individuals who are entering a bachelor’s or graduate degree program, or licensure, and create them a roadmap to follow. That way they’re not wasting their time taking classes they don’t need.
“We have stay-at-home mothers trying to attain their bachelor’s degree and licensure while at home because they know in a couple of years when their kids will be in school they can go into the workplace as a professional, not a temporary assistant,” she added. “They are working toward having a profession, not just getting a job.”