WASHINGTON – Twenty years in the Army — even patrolling the demilitarized zone in South Korea — didn’t quite prepare Arthur Moore for fourth and fifth graders.
“It was hard, harder than anything I ever had to do in the military,” said Moore, an Army sergeant who became a special education teacher in Baltimore under Troops to Teachers, a federal program that channels military retirees into teaching careers.
“I thought teaching was just getting up and speaking in front of a class, but instead I had to motivate them,” Moore said. “In the military, you lay out what you want to do, and individuals will just do it. But in a classroom it’s a different. You have to work hard to motivate the children to do it.”
Moore, an early recruit of Troops to Teachers, was invited to the White House Tuesday to promote the program at first lady Laura Bush’s “Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers” conference.
“The military trains its members to be leaders, to accomplish missions given, and above all, to take care of those below them,” Moore told the educators, politicians and journalists at the standing-room-only gathering in the East Room. “These skills can be a great asset when working with children.”
Troops to Teachers, he said, makes it possible by providing ex-soldiers with the ideal “bridge” between the field and classroom. When he started, the program provided some financial assistance to help him relocate from Colorado to Maryland. The administration hopes to expand the program to include bonuses for soldier/teachers in the future.
“Without this assistance, I wonder if I could have made the successful transition to the classroom, and have this second opportunity to serve my country,” he said Tuesday.
In an interview Sunday, Moore said adjusting from the military to teaching had been “difficult” at first, even “unbelievable.” Initially, he had doubted whether he could succeed. But he stuck with it, earned his certification in special education and is now nearly nine years into his teaching career in inner-city Baltimore.
And that is where he plans to stay, said the small-town West Virginia native.
“I’ve had offers to go teach in other areas of the country, where maybe it would be a little more comfortable, but I truly believe I was meant to be here in Baltimore,” he said.
Moore is likewise devoted to his special-needs students, whom he teaches at both Abbottston and Furley elementary schools.
“I like the clientele,” he said. “You learn from them what it takes to teach them. If I’d known before what it would be like, I probably would’ve started out teaching them in the first place.”
Standing before a White House audience that at times included President and Mrs. Bush, Lynne Cheney and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Moore stressed the benefits that military experience can add to teaching.
“We work as a team, to accomplish a mission,” he said. “Our reward is seeing the light go off in the minds of our students. We must remain focused even during the most difficult times.
“But above all, we must take care of our children,” Moore said. “And these are skills I learned while serving in the Army.”