Program turns troops into teachers

September 19, 2011 9:09:21 PM PDT
The U.S. Department of Education wants to recruit more quality teachers for schools in low-income neighborhoods. One way to it is to help veterans transition from the battle field, into a new field -- teaching. There's a program to do just that in the Bay Area.

Tony Seres says education was not his first career choice. Before landing a job as a kindergarten teacher, he spent 20 years in the air force. But when he and his wife started a family, Seres wanted nothing more than to be at home with his children.

"I saw the effect of me being gone on them and I thought, 'Well, they didn't enlist in the Air Force, so why should they have to deal with this?'" said Seres.

His wife had also been in the Air Force, but retired to become a special education teacher. His life changed when he visited her classroom.

"My heart kind of went out to those kids and the needs that they had and not only the academic needs, but kind of the lives that they led," said Seres.

With a degree in music, Seres spent two years working on his credentials at night, while on active duty. He knew he wanted to be involved with special education kids and last December was hired to teach at Nelda Munday Elementary in Fairfield. Before entering that classroom Seres took some advice from his wife, Wendy Seres.

"Different kids learn different ways and if you can find your way into whatever that is that makes them want to be there, that's the key," said Wendy.

Seres believes what he learned in the military, has served him well in the classroom, where all his students are on the autistic spectrum.

"We have our class schedule that we follow and everything is very rigid in here with these particular students and our course the military is that way," said Seres.

Troops To Teachers helps veterans like Seres get a job in education. The federal program has placed 800 veterans in California schools since it started in 1995. It offers tuition assistance to help vets get certified and those who teach in a high-poverty district get bonuses.

"We have a great achievement gap in California, especially at Hispanic and African American levels that we really need to change and I think veterans can make a difference there," said Vince Kilmartin from Troops To Teachers.

"You're right there. I mean it's instant and so you have that opportunity to make a difference to someone one on one," said Seres.


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