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Connecticut
Teacher and veteran, Renita Casey
My military training prepared me for life as an educator
How Renita Casey's service translated to skill and confidence in the classroom
November 6th, 2018

I joined the Massachusetts Army Reserve when I was 17 years old. After basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training), I went to work in a factory for six years. When the factory closed, I switched from the Reserves to the National Guard to take advantage of the college assistance they offered.

Serving my country as a National Guard member and teacher

As a member of the National Guard, I loved being in uniform and embodying our core values, even if only for one weekend a month. As I gained leadership skills and received opportunities to be technically and tactically proficient, I found that my confidence grew.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the organization and structure of the military helped me when I found my first teaching job in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The three years I spent there working with a great team of educators helped me realize I was meant to be a teacher. I feel my experiences as a second grade teacher helped me in the military as much as my military experiences helped me in the classroom.

The year I moved to Groton, Connecticut was a big year for me. I gave birth to my first child, received a master’s degree, was a substitute teacher, and worked on another leadership course to advance my career, all while keeping my position in the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Life changed after 9/11. I was not activated but spent many hours in mobilization sites making sure service members had all their paperwork in order to serve overseas. I took great pride serving my country during this sensitive time. In addition, working in Groton allowed me to work with a diverse population of Navy and Coast Guard families.

I think my experiences in the military have made me more sensitive to students who may not have a parent at home with them.

I was lucky enough to get a position teaching and living in Groton. I spent the next few years serving my community in the classroom, and my country with a two-hour commute to the state headquarters.

Renita Casey

 

Veterans can do anything they set their minds to

After my second child, I decided it was time to retire. As I reflect on my 21 years in the military and almost 20 years in the classroom, I have found that, in many ways, education is similar to the military.

Both experiences taught me that there is a large deal of confidence that comes with being prepared and trained for certain situations. The core values I learned in the military helped make me the person I am today, and I carried over what I learned into the classroom.

When you serve, you are a small, but important part of a bigger picture. This is very similar to being part of a school-wide community. Any task or mission, no matter how small, is successful when the team focuses on a common goal.

There is somewhat of a chain of command in a school setting, and both the people above and next to you are there to support and help you grow as an individual.

As a non-combat veteran, I know veterans can do anything they set their minds to because of the life skills and the mindsets they learned while serving in the military. I can confidently say that retiring from the Massachusetts National Guard after 21 years of service as a Sergeant First Class has definitely helped define the type of educator and person I am today.

Interested in pursuing teaching as a career?

Start by learning about the Connecticut Troops to Teachers program to see how you can translate your skills as a veteran to a career in education.

You can also explore TEACH Connecticut to discover why Connecticut is a great place to live and work, what compensation and benefits are like for CT teachers, and what scholarships and other financial opportunities await.
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