What Today’s Military Can bring to the Elementary Classroom


Scott Popplewell is Assistant Professor, Elementary Transition to Teaching Program.

Sixty thousand teaching positions across the United States were left unfilled in 2015-16 according to the Learning Policy Institute. The Institute projects that by 2018, 112,000 positions will be vacant. In this interview, Dr. Scott Popplewell, who has taught in Ball State University’s Department of Elementary Education for 21 years, discusses how active military can prepare for a civilian career in a field facing a critical shortage. 

Popplewell is director of Ball State’s Transition to Teaching (TTT) program, available fully online except for student teaching. Popplewell teaches literacy courses and provides professional development for school districts around the nation. He is a former classroom teacher and is passionate about the quality of teacher preparation for today’s schools.

What qualities do you think members of the military would bring to the classroom that would make them good teachers?

Popplewell: “I think those qualities would include determination, persistence, and being highly committed. I know several members of the military, and these qualities seem to be a common thread. These qualities would not only make him or her a good teacher, but they would be very important for succeeding with Ball State’s Transition to Teaching program.”

As they search for the right program, what questions should they be asking?

Popplewell: “The first question prospective students should ask is, ‘What is the quality and reputation of the university offering such programs?’ Something else important to consider are the types of online courses required as well as the amount of faculty support, including quality field experiences for students to be able to work with children and put theory into practice. Combined, these will help students be the best prepared to teach.”

The Learning Policy Institute notes that the teaching shortage is also created by significant attrition and that “quality preparation” leads to teacher retention. How does Ball State’s TTT program provide comprehensive, quality preparation?

Popplewell: “The level of support TTT students will receive from faculty as well as the guided field experiences of working with children, particularly in the areas of math, literacy, and classroom discipline and management, are instrumental in providing comprehensive, quality preparation.”

What if someone is interested but has yet to finish the bachelor’s degree?

Popplewell: “Students who have yet to complete a bachelor’s degree should complete the B.A. and then apply for admission to the TTT program. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of 3.0 on a 4-point scale is required.” 

Does this program have particular significance to men of the military?

Popplewell: “Male teachers are highly sought after in elementary schools. Especially today, children need positive male role models, and this is a perfect opportunity to become a classroom teacher and be a positive role model and inspiration for children.”


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