New teacher preparation support for veterans and military families
December 21, 2023
Partnership supports teacher preparation programs for veterans and military families
The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education has partnered with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to include the RTR Teacher Residency program (RTR) as a career opportunity for military members and their families.
The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding on Dec. 8 at Ettrick Elementary School, a Chesterfield County school where numerous educators with military service backgrounds are currently employed.
The partnership creates a pathway for veterans and their families to transition into teaching. The VCU School of Education’s RTR Teacher Residency program reduces (or eliminates) the financial barriers for its teacher preparation participants, regardless of military affiliation. Placed in Virginia's 17 high-need, partner school divisions, including Ettrick Elementary School, RTR aspiring teachers spend a year working alongside a mentor teacher, gradually taking on more teaching responsibility. RTR aspiring teachers agree to teach in a high-needs school after graduation.
“There’s great alignment as we encourage veterans and their family members to leverage RTR to continue to make a difference for others,” said Kathleen M. Rudasill, Ph.D., interim dean of the School of Education. “Anything we can do to make it easier for interested individuals to explore their passions and become well-trained teachers is a win.”
Joining Rudasill at the announcement were Lisa Coons, Ed.D., state superintendent for public instruction, Virginia Department of Education; Jeremy Raley, Ed.D., chief of staff at Virginia Department of Education; Mervin B. Daugherty, Ed.D., superintendent, Chesterfield County Public Schools; Ryan Harter, CCPS school board representative for Matoaka; and Daniel Gade, Ph.D., commissioner, Virginia Department of Veterans Services.
“This partnership will help ease the teacher shortage by filling teaching positions with motivated, experienced and dedicated personnel,” said Kim McKnight, Ph.D., director of the RTR Teacher Residency program. “We are thrilled to establish this opportunity for our military service members and their families who aspire to become educators. Our goal is to streamline the preparation, placement and hiring process and ensure a positive and seamless transition into the teaching profession,”
Ettrick joined the RTR program in 2016 when the elementary school had just achieved state accreditation. A year later, RTR helped Ettrick sustain accreditation by minimizing teacher turnover and supporting highly qualified teachers.
Hosted by Randi Smith, Ph.D., principal at Ettrick, along with the teachers and staff, the Dec. 8 event included a tour of the school, where 19 out of 35 staff members are aspiring teachers (residents), graduates or RTR mentors.
“Our longstanding alignment with VCU School of Education and RTR is now even stronger with the addition of this partnership to help military veterans become educators,” Smith said. “The RTR program at Ettrick has such a positive learning environment and is a win-win for everyone. Our teachers feel supported. The students feel supported.”
From left to right: Mervin B. Daugherty, Ed.D., superintendent, Chesterfield County Public Schools; Randi Smith, Ph.D., principal, Ettrick Elementary School; Lisa Coons, Ed.D., state superintendent for public instruction, Virginia Department of Education; Winter Cairns, Sgt. E-5 (retired) and teacher; Laura Williams and Francis Ferebee (both teachers and spouses of retired Army servicemen); Kim McKnight, Ph.D., director for RTR Teacher Residency program; and Daniel Gade, Ph.D., commissioner, Virginia Department of Veterans Services. (Photo by Thomas Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications.)