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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

Author: Renita Casey

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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.

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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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