AUGUSTA, Ga. – Georgia is looking to help veterans get jobs in education, and Augusta-area schools are looking to tackle that goal, too.
On Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 88, which, in part, supports a pathway for military members to become alternatively certified teachers through a nontraditional certification program.
The legislation describes a three-year certification program that is available to active, reserve and honorably discharged military members. They must have a bachelor’s degree, a satisfactory GPA and pass a Georgia educator ethics assessment.
During the three years, participants shall receive “high-quality professional development that is sustained, intensive and classroom focused.” Each year, they will be required to pass assessments and demonstrate progress.
Augusta-area school systems are ready to support this program.
“The Columbia County School District is ready and willing to work within the scope of S.B. 88 aimed at growing the teacher workforce,” said spokesperson Abbigail Remkus. “We are excited to learn more in the coming weeks and months about how these opportunities will be implemented … the key provisions of S.B. 88 will greatly aid efforts to continue to bring quality educators into our schools.”
Richmond County School System’s Chief Human Resources Officer Cecil Clark said they already have started tackling the initiative.
“[We are] already working with Fort Gordon and the Veterans Administration to recruit eligible local veterans interested in alternative paths to certification available with the passage of Senate Bill 88,” he said via text. “This expands opportunities for our school system to engage veterans to pursue careers in education. Through this policy we expect to build upon the success we have had with veterans in our classrooms as volunteers, mentors and teachers.”
Troops to Teachers
Augusta University was part of a similar program, Troops to Teachers, which has helped veterans transition to teaching since 1993. However, according to the program’s website proudtoserveagain.com, it was canceled by the Defense Department on Oct. 1, 2020, to realign its resources elsewhere. Nevertheless, assistant dean of accreditation, partnerships, and educator preparation Kristy Brown said they will continue the work.
“The Augusta University College of Education will continue to work with the AU Department of Military & Veteran Services and Fort Gordon’s Education Center to recruit and train military service members as educators,” she said via email. “Fortunately, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission has been awarded state funding to continue the work started by Troops to Teachers. We look forward to implementing their future plans at AU.”
‘A different point of leadership’
Richmond County school board members Shawnda Griffin, who was a member of U.S. Army Military Police Corps, and Wayne Frazier, who was an educator and in the Army, said they are optimistic about the new program and see some big advantages to teachers who were military.
“It [the program] gives veterans an opportunity as they come out of the military service to continue to serve and give back to the community,” Griffin said. “It’ll be especially interesting to see how those who come from a more tactical background can transfer that to teaching in a classroom.”
“I think that one of the things we need more of is people with leadership backgrounds, and the military brings a different point of leadership into education, and I think that … one of our weak areas in public education is leadership,” Frazier said.
Some other measures of S.B. 88 include allowing Georgia’s Teacher of the Year to serve as advisor ex-officio to the State Board of Education, to require that teacher education programs include mandatory coursework in differentiated instruction and reading fundamentals, and to promote increased student enrollment in and completion of teacher education programs offered at historically black colleges and universities.