Group works to recruit former military service members - WKRN News 2

Teach for America works to recruit former military service members

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Inside her fifth grade science classroom at Brick Church College Prep, Sarah Staab is worlds away from her former life.

She paces the room, posing questions, pointing at a map.

On Tuesday, her class learned about volcanoes. On Wednesday they are learning about earthquakes.

"When you bend down and tie a kid's shoe, it is kind of comical to think this is so different from my past life, but in many ways, it is the same," said Staab.

Staab didn't come from the traditional teaching background; she attended West Point, then spent five years in the military, including nine months with a small medical unit manning an emergency clinic and trauma center for troops in Al Kut, Iraq

She left the military, not because she didn't love it, but because she was looking for a new challenge.

But it wasn't a decision the former army captain said she took lightly.

"There's a lot of trepidation when you decide to leave that kind of field. You don't know how exactly your skills will transfer over into the civilian world," Staab said.

Turns out, her skills, organization, patience, ability to manage high stress situations and adaptability, are a perfect fit for a tour of duty in a classroom.

"I've been through all this training and I would've never believed, if I didn't live it myself, how much problem solving and critical thinking and mentoring that goes on in a school on a day to day basis," explained Staab.

She continued, "I feel more prepared than maybe some of my peers do because of my military training."

That's what Teach for America thinks, too.

TFA is a national non-profit that helps train and place teachers in underprivileged neighborhoods, with the goal of closing the achievement gap.

They have traditionally courted young college graduates, but their approach to recruitment is changing.

"TFA and the U.S. Armed Forces share a lot in terms of values. Some of those are valuing leadership, service, perseverance, an achievement orientation, organization, critical thinking," explained TFA Executive Director Shani Dowell.

Of the 10,000 active TFA corps members, about 100 are military veterans which is a number TFA wants to increase.

"It's really an idea that was probably past due in its time," Dowell told Nashville's News 2, "But we've seen it really take off, just in the past few years where we've really started to make a concerted effort."

The national unemployment rate for veterans in 2012 was just under 10%. For non-veterans, it was 7.9%.

TFA believes their goal marries a need among veterans with a need among students and schools.

Staab agrees, adding "Veterans have such a skill set that can be brought into the classroom and really impact our country's future."

Even though Staab's commitment to TFA is only two years, she said she's considering a long-term career in teaching.

"My favorite part is getting to have fun," she said. "I think I spent five years being so serious and focused and driven, [and] you still are that way in the classroom, but you get to do it with a smile on your face."

The application process for the next class of TFA teachers is still open and Staab hopes other military veterans will consider trading in their fatigues for a chance to change lives in a different way.

"It is both an excellent way to continue your service to the country and a really great way to move our country's education system forward."

For more information on Teach for America, visit their Web site.

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