This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own.
There are many challenges a military spouse faces within this unique lifestyle, but finding a stable career often tops the list.
There needs to be both passion and flexibility especially when the most consistent aspect of this way of life is inconsistency. Popular careers include in-home businesses, healthcare, and computer graphics, but many military spouses turn to teaching.
Many spouses may embrace the idea of becoming a teacher, they may not know exactly what is required. So what is it really like to be a teacher, and how does one reach that goal? Although considered a portable career, until recently, teaching had been a slightly more difficult path to take for military spouses.
Each state had its own specific licensing and certification requirements, so when families relocated to another state, they had to get re-certified in that state. Not only could this get quite expensive, but spouses would quickly become exasperated if required to take yet another subject area exam, something they may have done half a dozen times already. Fortunately, thanks to nonprofit advocates and military spouse employment supporters, changes are starting to take place to make teaching a truly portable career option once again.
“My dad was in the Air Force, but no matter where we moved, school was always something that was consistent in my life. I was also really lucky to have great teachers who made learning enjoyable,” said Colleen Rector, who is now a fourth grade teacher at MC Perry Elementary School at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.
As far as getting an updated license, Colleen was fortunate to teach overseas.
“To become an OCONUS (Outside Continental United States) teacher, I just had to submit a teaching application, current teaching certificate, and a few other documents required by DODEA (the Department of Defense Education Activity). Since I am working in an OCONUS school on a military base, it didn’t matter which state issued my teaching certification because DODEA accepts licensure from anywhere in the U.S.,” Colleen said.
But many military spouse teachers are stationed stateside, where it’s easy to encounter obstacles. Veteran teacher Jessica Alea has taught high school English in both Florida and South Carolina. “I wanted to become a teacher because I loved learning and reading. I wanted others to know that despite challenges in life, reading can awaken them to the world,” Jessica said. But becoming an educator wasn’t completely seamless for Jessica.
“I received an alternate certificate, which means I already had a bachelor’s in a related field, had to take a few required courses, and then take a test. However, each state I have moved to required teachers to apply for their certification and/or licensing. Some states are more stringent than others,” Jessica said.
Fortunately for Jessica, Colleen, and other military spouses with a heart to teach, they may no longer have to deal with similar hassles on recertification after every move. In 2018, with the help of some outspoken military advocates, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) requiring federal agencies to promote the use of existing military spouses and to provide greater opportunities for spouses to be considered for government positions. One of the main goals is to encourage each state’s consideration of licensure requirements.
To coincide with the EO, 28 states have begun issuing teacher reciprocity licensing. By doing so, it is easier for military spouse teachers to secure employment while completing applications or additional certifications required in their new state. While not completely free of requiring additional certifications, this is an agreement between participating states for honoring teaching credentials issued by each other.
The news gets better. In the past, to receive updated licensure and certifications required by each state to gain employment, a military spouse had to personally fund the cost; however, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act requires each branch of service to reimburse up to $500 for certification and re-licensure costs as a result of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) within the United States. Spouses or both reserve and active duty are eligible for this benefit. Each branch requires slightly different documentation for the reimbursement, but the required forms are minimal.
So, great news for those current teachers wanting to land a new job on their next PCS move. But what about those who have the desire to become an educator, although they lack their degree? Well, there is more good news! There are several financial opportunities available for assistance.
Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) is a tuition assistance program which can also provide up to $4,000 to pursue a license, certification or associate degree in a portable career field and occupation. Which can help you become a teacher assistant, educational aide, or childcare specialist. A portion of the Post-9/11 GI Bill can be used for dependents. Additionally, Survivor’s and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) has opportunities for eligible military spouses of certain veterans.
Military discounts by some colleges may also provide discounts up to 50%, and a myriad of military spouse scholarships or grants are offered. But not everyone can be a teacher.
It takes an internal desire to want to teach others, but if the emotion and dedication are there, it is achievable. With the help of assistance programs for spouses, and the continuing forward movement of the teacher license reciprocity, being a teacher can be considered a solid, transferable military spouse career.
Check out the original article written for Military Spouse Magazine.