You Served, Now Teach
Teach For America
Teach For America works with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a corps of college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and then become alumni leaders. Today, 10,600 corps members are teaching in 50 urban and rural regions across the country, while more than 37,000 alumni work across various sectors to promote excellent educational access for all children.
In 2012, Teach For America launched an initiative program called You Served For America, Now Teach For America. Its mission is to bring into the campaign more transitioning and veteran military, members of the National Guard and reserve forces, and military spouses. The organization believes that the students of the high-need schools will benefit greatly from veterans’ depth of experience, strength in leadership, and desire to continue to serve their country.
Research has shown that the skills and competencies of highly effective teachers match those gained through military service – including the assumption of high levels of trust, transfer of skills across contexts, and experience working in discontinuous environments. Military spouses are a well-educated pool of talent able to adapt to diverse settings and build relationships across cultures. During the 2014-2015 school year, about 130 veterans served in classrooms as members of the Teach For America corps.
A VETERAN SUCCESS | SIDNEY ELLINGTON
Sidney Ellington is a former Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) officer with 20 years of service. In the Navy, he gained experience in executive-level management, team-building, decision-making, problem-solving, and real-world strategic, operational, and tactical level planning. He also managed multi-million dollar budgets while achieving consistent upward movement. Ellington is now the director of You Served For America, Now Teach For America. He is also a Greater New Orleans 2010 alumnus.
He credits the Navy’s training in special operations planning with helping him enter the classroom completely prepared in terms of content. He was required to create phase diagrams covering insertion, infiltration, action, exfiltration, and extraction. Each phase required multiple sub-phases and contingencies. This sort of planning proved invaluable for lesson planning. His preparation enabled him to address other issues – such as behavior problems – effectively when they arose.
Ellington advises veterans who want to become teachers to understand that students might not immediately respect military experience. This is because they can’t relate to it – they have no context for understand what it means to be in the Special Forces or to have 250 combat jumps. Veterans need to earn their respect by finding other ways to connect with them – learning what is happening in their lives and in their communities and discovering common areas.