Julian: Tenth-grade history teacher Brian Thompson brings a little something extra to the classroom, especially when the subject is war.
Brian Thompson: Alright? And I felt that way when I was in Afghanistan.
Julian: Thompson teaches at Washington, D.C’s Cardozo High. And he has become a role model for Teach for America, a non-profit group trying to get more veterans into the teaching profession.
As an Army paratrooper in Afghanistan for three-and-a-half years, Thompson says his students have many questions about his experience.
Thompson: The question that’s usually asked, ‘Mr. Thompson, have you shot anyone?’ As a veteran, that passion to serve your country really never leaves you.
Julian: Returning veterans are having a tough time finding jobs. The unemployment rate for veterans who served since 2001 is about 11%. That is a full three points higher than the national average, which is about 8%.
Former Army Staff Sergeant Shawn Murphy is hoping to recruit more veterans on behalf of Teach for America.
Shawn Murphy: We value the similar competencies as far as our leadership, commitment to service, ability to motivate and influence folks, organizational skills.
Julian: Cardozo High is an inner-city school with inner-city problems, which may seem foreign to someone who grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco – but not for a combat veteran.
Thompson: One of my favorite students was killed in gun violence.
Julian: That student was 18-year-old Lucki Parnell. She was just about to graduate when she was shot sitting outside her home two years ago.
Thompson: It was tough because you know what it’s like with your military experience but I never imagined I’d have to face that again as a teacher.
Let me hear from someone on this side of the room.
Julian: Even though Thompson was new to the classroom, his years on the battlefield allowed him to give his students what few other teachers could in that situation – exactly what they needed.
Thompson: I’m there to listen and always just let them know, ‘Hey, I’ve lost friends too in similar ways.’ I tell all my fellow veterans, look into teaching. You are bringing such a skillset to this job and you need to share those experiences, share those skills with the students of this country and help this generation do great things.
Julian: Julian Dujarric, Channel One News.
- Why do veterans often become great teachers?
- What special skills do teachers like Brian Thompson bring to school every day?
- What is the purpose of the non-profit group Teach for America?