August 16, 2022 Updated 2:54 P.M. ET
NEW PORT RICHEY (FLV) – Veteran and current teacher Russell Vachon talked about how he used his experiences in the U.S. Navy to inspire and teach students in school at a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday.
After serving in the U.S. Navy, Vachon entered the financial services industry. It was at that time he received a call from a friend to talk with students about financial literacy.
“I started talking to them about financial information, paycheck budgeting, what did they do. They didn’t know a lot,” he said. “And then I started sharing my experiences with them from around the world, how all the other countries relate to ours and how great of a country we do have here, public speaking.”
“And the room came alive. They started looking at me and talking. I was able to tie what they were learning to things they use every day.”
At that point, Vachon decided to switch careers and become a teacher. He obtained his bachelor’s degree online while working about 60 hours a week.
“This was so much more rewarding than anything I ever did in the financial services industry,” he said. “I knew going into that classroom with those kids was just something that you can’t even explain.”
Vachon now teaches at River Ridge High School in Pasco County.
A new Florida law, unanimously passed by the state legislature, allows veterans without degrees to receive a temporary teaching certificate to help fill the teaching gap in classrooms. Qualified veterans can temporarily teach until they receive a college degree.
Criteria for veterans to receive a temporary certificate:
– Served four years in Military with honorable discharge
– At least 60 college credits
– 2.5 GPA
– Pass a subject area examination
“It was unanimously passed by the legislature. Some of the media just recently started attacking us over this,” DeSantis said. “They said, you can’t just put any old warm body in the classroom. As a veteran, I will tell you, the people that serve our country are not just some warm body, they’re people.”
Florida Schools Allow Veterans to Temporarily Instruct Without Degrees to Help Ease Teacher Shortage
Vachon believes there are a lot of qualities veterans have that will benefit students in a time when the country is facing a teacher shortage.
“With veterans coming in, we share experiences, we’re accountable, time management, discipline, all of these things come in but most importantly is structure,” he said.
“Creating structure is one of the most important things that I think gets passed up. Creating a sense where people feel safe in the classroom.”
DeSantis Proposes First Responder Bonuses, Mentorship Programs, and Scholarships to Help Recruit Teachers
DeSantis announced proposed initiatives to help recruit teachers Tuesday. The first initiative includes recruiting first responders who have their bachelor’s degree. DeSantis said the state would waive the state teacher certification exam fees and those first responders would be eligible for a $4,000 bonus under the program.
The second Initiative creates a teacher apprenticeship program which will allow Floridians with their associates degree to get professional experience teaching in a classroom under the mentorship of an experienced teacher.
The third proposal includes a scholarship program to help current high school teachers earn their masters degree. It will allow them to teach dual enrollment classes at the high school where they currently work. The move will make it easier for students to take dual enrollment classes instead of traveling to a college.
DeSantis wants state lawmakers to approve these proposals during the 2023 legislative session.
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