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Program brings military into classroom

January 12, 2010 12:35 am

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John Montez teaches history and psychology at Brooke Point High School after a 20-year Navy career.

ONE of my son's teachers is a former military man. That means I don't worry about a thing in that classroom. I figure anybody who retired from the military can handle anything (even middle school kids!) and can probably teach the kids a lot about discipline and respect.

Because of its proximity to Washington and many military bases, Stafford County is fortunate to have many former military members teaching in its schools.

Some of them came our way via the Troops to Teachers program.

According to the Troops to Teachers Web site, the goal of the program is to help "relieve teacher shortages, especially in math, science, special education and other high-needs subject areas, and to assist military personnel in making successful transitions to second careers in teaching."

Former active-duty service men and women are given financial assistance to help them become certified to teach. They are given bonuses if they agree to teach for three years in schools with higher numbers of low-income children.

Spotsylvania resident John Montez is one of four Troops to Teachers graduates working in Stafford County schools.

Montez became a teacher at Brooke Point High School after serving "20 years and a few days" as a petty officer in the Navy. His experiences in the Navy led to his desire to teach.

"Most people in the military, at one time or another, do have to instruct. I was assigned early on in my career to a facility where I had to do a fair amount of instruction time. It was a very comfortable fit," said Montez.

After one of his classes, a colleague asked him if he had ever thought about teaching. That stuck with him until he came to the end of his military career.

Despite taking college courses during his time in the military, Montez hadn't finished his undergraduate degree, an important goal for him. He decided to finish his degree, and Troops to Teachers helped him find a job.

Montez started at Brooke Point in 2002.

"If I had known that I would have this much fun as a teacher," he said, "I would have left the military earlier."

Montez teaches American history and psychology and coaches the boys tennis team.

His years as a hospital corpsman have come in handy in psychology.

"We're talking about stress and things that I have talked about and instructed people on [in the military]," he said.

The discipline and self-control he learned in the military also have been useful. He says he has few problems with discipline in his classroom.

"My demeanor is a little different, my attitude is a little different, I enjoy teaching but when [students] get angry with me, I don't take it personally," he said.

I asked him if he sees differences between teenagers now and when he was younger.

"There is absolutely no difference," he said. "I graduated high school in 1975 and I can probably give you a dozen parallels with kids today. Teenagers are teenagers the world over."

His patience and understanding also is influenced by his own family. He and his wife, Colleen, have six children between them.

My last question to Montez was if he was happy with his decision to go into teaching.

"How many people get paid to read history? I love history," he said, and went on to describe teaching as "a grand profession."

I'll go further and say of the Troops for Teachers program, what a grand idea.

Shannon Howell is a freelance writer who lives in Stafford County. E-mail her at shannonh34@yahoo.com.





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