Veteran Revamp

Veteran Revamp

Max Aronson, Staff Writer

New law offers to waive teaching certificates for veterans

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law on Jan. 9 which allows a nonrenewable 5-year waiver for an otherwise required teaching certificate to be issued to veterans with a minimum of 48 months active duty service and an honorable discharge. Recipients of the waiver must have completed a minimum of 60 college credits and maintained a grade point average of at least a 2.5. They must still pass the proficiency examination in whichever subject they wish to teach.

Assistant Principal of Curriculum Glenn Webb said the new law has not changed the fact that the educational system makes the ultimate decision of who is hired as a teacher.

“There are still vetting processes that anybody we’re putting in front of a student has to go through,” Webb said. “We want to make sure we’re not putting the wrong people in front of students, if that makes sense. So it’s a group of individuals with specific training, specific experiences that we can tap into to help teach our kids.”

The law came into effect as Florida public school systems began the school year with 9,000 vacant teaching positions, a part of a nationwide trend which has left the country in need of 280,000 teachers total.

Webb said teaching has become less attractive as a profession to graduating college students.

“Sometimes it’s because the pay hasn’t been so great, although Florida has boosted up their beginning pay for beginning teachers,” Webb said, “but also, for somebody to go into a field where you know the public and the media and legislatures are just going to bash you and your program and lump you into this big category of ‘teachers’, thinking that all teachers are the same and all schools are the same, it makes it very challenging to get people to decide, ‘I want to be a teacher’.”

History teacher Kirk Murphy said he believes educational policies also play a part in the trend of dwindling teacher numbers.

“Florida could probably help itself out more by paying teachers better and things like that,” Murphy said, “not driving away teachers with dictatorial rules, but this is something that is throughout the country, so this is an issue that needs to be addressed everywhere, not just Florida.” 

Webb said the new law is meant to help stem teacher attrition.

“What we want is the right people coming into the classroom, and so by waiving some of those requirements for people coming in, like veterans, it’s a second career. They’ve been in the military with the discipline, and have served in some capacity at a job,” he said. “So we want those skills and abilities coming in, and so by waiving some of those requirements, it’s helping to fill some of those holes.”

Math teacher Patrick Pittenger, West Shore’s only veteran teacher, said the military passes on a few core abilities that are integral to teaching.

“There’s a lot of the same skills that we use,” Pittenger said. “Organization: very, very important. Time management: there’s only so many hours in a day, a lot of things you need to do. Being able to change things on the fly, cause you never know what’s going to pop up day to day in the classroom, so you got to be able to adjust. There’s the team-building aspect of it and working together as a team, which is very, very important with other teachers as well. So I can see why when they’re looking to fill teaching positions, they’re looking for veterans.”

Murphy expressed his concerns that new teachers who have received the waivers may not have yet mastered the skills he believes teaching requires.

“I think people tend to underestimate how difficult teaching is,” Murphy said. “It’s not just understanding a topic or understanding a subject, it’s being able to relate that subject to other people in a way that’s understandable. I’ve seen people I know who are math geniuses who couldn’t teach math, not because they didn’t know math, they just couldn’t relate what they knew to teach people to help them learn. So I’m very worried about that aspect.”

Webb concurred, saying the proficiency tests do not guarantee recipients of the waiver will be able to effectively pass their knowledge on to students.

“It’s always been the case that we want people with skills and abilities to come into our classrooms and share what it is that they have, but just because you have the skill or ability, the ability to teach that is a different animal,” Webb said. “I’m a supporter of anything that gets the right people in front of kids. However, I’ll say this: ‘Teaching is an art, it’s a craft, it’s not just a job’, and our [experienced] teachers know very well what it takes to build that craft over time.”

Webb said he still believes the law is a good start to solving the issue of a major teacher shortage.

“This is the first step,” he said. “I imagine, as with anything else, the process will be evaluated and modified down the road in an effort to make sure that we’re putting teachers in front of students.”