This State Is Looking for Veterans to Serve as Teachers to Combat Educator Shortfalls

The Kentucky Department of Education is actively seeking military veterans to fill educator shortages across the commonwealth. (G. Anthonie Riis/U.S. Army photo)

The Kentucky Department of Education is actively seeking military veterans to fill educator shortages across the commonwealth.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, veterans provide a ready pool of prospective teachers who might be fast-tracked into classrooms to meet the scarcity once the COVID-19 shutdown is over.

"Kentucky falls into the national trend of states battling a shortage of teachers for grades kindergarten through the 12th grade," said Norma Andrade, certification specialist and veteran coordinator with KDE. "In 2018, local school districts posted over 11,000 positions in the Kentucky Educator Placement Service, but Kentucky is also seeing a decrease in the number of people enrolling in education, and a significant number of them that did enroll do not complete the program."

In 1994, Kentucky passed legislation known as Option 5, which was specifically designed to expedite qualified veterans into a career in teaching, Andrade said.

"In 2019, Kentucky's Commissioner of Education officially launched the GoTeachKY initiative in order to help recruit the next generation of Kentucky's educators," Andrade said. "One of the main goals of the initiative is to make veterans more aware of Option 5 and the opportunities it provides former service members to teach in Kentucky."

According to the KDE website, qualified veterans must have a bachelor's degree with an overall grade-point average of 2.75 and have been discharged from active-duty service under honorable conditions or served honorably with the National Guard or Army Reserve for at least six years.

Veterans' degrees must also be in accepted academic subjects, such as math, science or social studies, or if they hold a bachelor's degree outside a content area, they must pass the Praxis II in any chosen content area they wish to teach.

Andrade said veterans can offer a lifetime of experience to Kentucky classrooms.

"Veterans make an impact by filling critical shortages in the content areas of math, science and foreign languages, and they positively affect the community through their leadership, strong work ethic and dedication," Andrade said. "The diversity they bring to the field through cultural backgrounds and life experiences connects through classroom instruction, student mentoring and with their teacher colleagues."

Andrade said she has seen a lot of veteran participation in the program and pointed out they can also assist military spouses.

"The Education Professional Standards Board has issued more than 120 professional certificates to veterans in the last two years," she said. "The EPSB will [also] work with military spouses to guide them through other alternative pathways to teacher certification."

According to the Troops to Teachers: Proud to Serve Again website, Kentucky provides differential pay for full-time teaching positions in high-needs schools or shortage areas, and Teachers' Retirement System Kentucky is rated as one of the best in the country.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that Kentucky's gross annual teacher salaries average slightly more than $50,000 annually.

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