WPTV | Meghan McRoberts | June 15, 2022
STUART, Fla. — The state of Florida is still grappling with a severe teacher shortage with thousands of projected vacancies statewide this upcoming school year.
But the governor has signed a bill that lawmakers hope will attract a new group of people — veterans — to pursue teaching careers and help fill those much-needed jobs.
State Rep. John Snyder sponsored HB 573, which expands the federal “Troops to Teachers” program within the state.
Snyder said the skills that veterans possess from their time in the service make them a great fit for serving students.
The bill, which Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law, gives veterans a faster track to becoming a teacher after completing their military service.
Under the program, veterans are given assistance, financial support and mentorship to guide them through the steps of becoming a teacher if they have a four-year college degree.
Under Snyder’s bill, the state equates 48 months of active-duty military service with honorable discharge or a medical separation to two years of college experience.
That means veterans would only need to obtain two years of college credits — with a GPA of at least 2.5 — to qualify to take the temporary certification test.
“What we did specifically with this bill is allow veterans to receive credit for the time they honorably use in the military and use that in addition to college credits to be able to obtain their temporary teacher certification,” Snyder said. “The last thing we want is a piece of paper to be the barrier between a good teacher getting into a classroom.”
The bill also requires that temporary certificate holders be assigned a teacher mentor for at least two years after beginning their job.
The temporary certificate for military members who meet the requirement is valid for five years.
“I would say the skills and abilities a veteran picks up in their time in service far surpass the things kids are learning in college these days,” Snyder said.
A Marine Corps veteran himself, Snyder said he was inspired to sponsor the bill not only from his own service but from a teacher at Treasure Coast Classical Academy, Jeff Lamattery, who he helped recruit to teach at the school.
Lamattery is a science teacher and Marine veteran.
“I really love talking about DNA and genetics,” Lamattery said. “To show [students] something about themselves they had no idea about, I get a lot of ‘a-ha’ moments from the kids. That’s the best.”
Before becoming a teacher at TCCA, he went to college to study physics, but he left college early to join the Marine Corps and worked on avionics in helicopters.
“A lot of people are in the military because they want to be part of that bigger thing,” Lamattery said.
When he left the military, he finished his physics degree but wanted a more rewarding career.
“It was really my friends and family telling me that I ought to be a teacher. I never really considered it, especially coming out of the Marine Corps,” Lamattery said. “They brief us on how our skills can transfer into the civilian world and teaching never really came up.”
“We know for sure there’s a segment in our society, our active-duty military veterans, who do make great fits in the classroom,” Snyder said.
“Being a good teacher is the same thing as being a good leader, and leadership is what everyone comes out of the military with,” Lamattery said.
According to U.S Army statistics, more than 100,000 veterans have become teachers through the federal program since 1993.