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The Journey
Education Agency (TEA)



The Troops to Teachers Journey


In Their Own words

This page is dedicated to the men and women of Texas Troops to Teachers who make a difference in the lives of school children all over our great state. Some offer words of wisdom, while others go to great lengths to motivate and inspire their students! We salute you all!

If you have pictures and stories to share about your own journey from troop to teacher, please send them to us, so that we can share with others who may be considering taking the same path.

Gary Edge

Grade/Subject: Pre-AP World Geography

School: Haltom High School

School District: Birdville ISD


After serving more than twenty-three years, I decided to become an educator. I studied at Columbia College and graduated with highest honors. After graduation, I looked for a job within my local area. After an unsuccessful search, I took the permanent substitution job as the In-School Suspension teacher. One morning, the principal called me into her office to discuss an immediate fill position she had. Within the hour, I was at the human resource office. Having begun my teaching year in October, my first year was extremely fast paced. Unlike most first-year teachers who are merely trying to survive, I thrived. I was nominated as a First-Year Teacher of
the Year. My next year in teaching, I was awarded with Teacher of the Year. Followed with being named the Exemplary Teacher for the District my third year. Most recently, I was named an Educator of Distinction. While all of this may seem a boast, it is not. It illustrates that the skills required to be a good educator are the same skills it took to serve this great country. All members of the military are educators. The private teaches skills to those new to the unit. Every service member knows what it takes to teach. The Troops To Teachers program, in my opinion, is a natural progression.

As I started my education career later in life, I am a bit aged. During a lesson on the American Revolution, I acted out a scene from Paul Revere’s ride. I was hunched over my horse’s neck looking around for the British and explained how Paul was captured. After the tale, I asked if anyone had a question. A young man in the front row, asked, “Where were you and how
come you didn’t get caught?”

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount of "up to and including my life." That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

John F. Gallen

Grade/Subject: Special Education

School: Copperas Cove High School

School District: Copperas Cove ISD


As I reflect on my 20th year of teaching and the numerous Special Education students I have taught over the years, I can only hope and pray that I have made a difference or impact in their lives. My philosophy has been that these students should be able to go out into society and make their own contribution, by being productive voting citizens in the United States of America. A number of my students have entered the military and are making great contributions to this nation. When I retired from the Army in 1993, I never dreamed that I would spend twenty more years in another profession. I applied and got accepted into an alternatve certification program which at the time was fairly new to Central Texas. In my ESC Region 12 class were many veterans and the bond that was there based on common experiences held me in goo stead. A lot of us applied for Troops to Teachers at that time and it made a significant difference in my career experience in education. First, my school district benefited from me being a veteran and second I benefited by applying and receiving a $10000 stipend offered by Troops to Teachers. As a veteran I bring my military experience to the classroom and can relate to the military kids of which were the majority of the population that I taught in Copperas Cove High School, since we are a community right next door to Fort Hood, Texas. Along the way I received a few awards, but the real reward was seeing my students excel and eventually graduate from Copperas Cove High School. It is always a joy to hear from former students who let you know how they are doing and thanking you for making a difference in their lives. When I retire from teaching after this school year I am going to miss the students, however; I am going also miss my colleagues I have had the honor and pleasure to work alongside over the past 20 years, many of which are also veterans. I am looking to continue to "Pay it Forward" and become an educational consultant and continue to serve my community of Copperas Cove for years to come. I have been "Proud to Serve Again" and hold my head high as a veteran and soon to be retired teacher. Troops to Teachers has given me that opportunity over the past 20 years.

Daniel Leija

Grade/Subject: 5th Grade, Math & Science

School: Esparza Elementary

School District: Northside ISD


“Proud to serve again!” The Troops to Teachers moniker rings true each and every day that I step into my classroom to teach! Having proudly served in multiple nursing and medical instructor assignments in the United States Air Force, I knew teaching was my destiny. In addition to the pedagogic knowledge gained in my teacher preparation program, I was also equipped with the leadership principals instilled by the Air Force; Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all that we do. These are the values which continue to guide me through my daily routine at the campus, district and state level.

Eric Jensen once said, “The one thing children of poverty lack and reach out for the most is a caring, dependable adult in their lives, and often it‘s teachers to whom children look for that support.” Dr. Jensen’s words describe each of the students in my classroom. I teach at a large Title 1 elementary school in San Antonio Texas. Many of my students find themselves reaching out for a caring adult role model in their lives. I feel the need to be that person. Because I believe it is important to be available to my students and parents at all times, I give out my cell phone number to students and parents at the beginning of the year with the instructions to call me for questions regarding homework, projects, or needed clarification. As a result, I have successfully cultivated a strong bond with the community. They realize I am committed to do whatever is necessary to assure their child’s success. At the end of each year, my parents and students again receive my business card with the assurance that although they are walking out of my classroom door for the last time, I will never stop being their teacher. They are free to call with questions about academic problems, letters of recommendation, or help with college applications.

Because my many of my students need extra help, I implemented a Saturday school to help my students gain confidence in their math abilities. I also tutor as needed before school, after school, and during lunch. I have developed several methods to help students retain and recall critical math information. Many of my ideas have been utilized on other campuses. As a result, my students continually post high scores on the state mandated math and science tests.

Military people unhesitatingly take on leadership roles. In my short 13 year career, I have functioned as a team leader for third and fourth grades, and the campus insurance and wellness representative. I also volunteered to become a mentor teacher for the Texas Troops to Teachers program.  Because of my military background in nursing and as an emergency medical technician, I was identified as a medical first responder for our campus. I maintain certification in CPR and use of the AED. When our campus struggled with low scores on the state mandated science test (TAKS), I was approached by my principal requesting me to take on the role as the campus science facilitator and find a way to boost the campus science scores. I proudly accepted the challenge and immediately implemented a Monday morning televised science lab aimed at piquing students’ interest in science. The “Dan Dan the Science Man” programs were a hit with the students. Soon, students began making guest appearances on my segment, doing science demonstrations they developed on their own. The segment began to take on a life of its own. I credit the program in part for our campus science scores increasing from a 67% pass rate to a 92% pass rate within 2 years!

As a result of my hard work and dedication, I received numerous awards and recognitions to include, proclamations from the San Antonio City Council, the Texas Senate, the Texas State Board of Education, and the Texas Governor. In 2003, I was honored by the San Antonio Spurs Basketball team as the Spurs Teacher of the Game. In 2005 I was named the American Star of Teaching by the US Department of Education for effective teaching practices under President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. In 2011, I was honored as the Texas Teacher of the Year.

I continue to work on behalf of the 335,000 Texas teachers and 5 million public education students. In addition to my teaching duties, I also continue to function as the campus science facilitator and Troops to Teachers Mentor Teacher. I am currently working on a Masters degree in K-5 Mathematics through Walden University. I was also honored to be named as a commission member for the 2012 Texas Teaching Commission to provide input and the needed teacher’s voice in the development of teaching recommendations which were drafted for the 2013 Texas legislature.
I am and continue to be proud to serve again.

Click here for Daniel Leija's essay.

Isela Rios Moreno

Grade/Subject: EC-12 Special Education

School: Zamora MS

School District:
South San Antonio ISD


One day a person who was working as a teacher, and a previous armed forces member, crossed my path. I asked how she went about becoming a teacher. She enlightened me with information regarding Troops to Teachers and alternative certification.  I already had an undergrad and a grad degree, but still, it took me 6 months to really think about changing paths from working as a caseworker and really loving what I did. I looked into something similar from the education perspective, and God behold I come across making up my mind of continuing to service the “special population” that I had really come to love.  I looked into alternative certification in the special education area, and here I am 4 years later loving my job and really loving what I do.
I would not give it up until I am too old and no longer able to provide a service to the Special Population I have come to love.
I have completed 4 years and have signed a contract for academic year 2011/2012.  I am extremely happy with what I do.

Ida Holloway Byrd

Grade/Subject: 4th Grade

School: Ira Cross Jr. Elementary School

School District:
Killeen Independent School District


I’ve taught at Ira Cross Jr. Elementary in Killeen ISD for 7 years. After a stint as a Border Patrol Agent, I enlisted in the United States Army in November 2000. A tour in Kuwait and a promotion to E-5 offered me the opportunity to shine in leadership roles. Medically discharged after arriving at Fort Hood in 2005, I needed to find a meaningful career path where I could continue “giving back.” I loved helping my son with homework, and the feeling I had in knowing I was instrumental in his success. For years my older sister had suggested I join her in becoming an educator. I decided to embark of this career path and I’ve not ever looked back. I’ve never felt more passionate about the work I do!
My career requires flexibility in teaching transient students of varying economic backgrounds. I really care, understand, and want the best for each of my students. I’m so proud of them! I’m certain I can continue to touch my students’ lives and inspire them to achieve the greatness within them. I have a vested interest in their future, just as I had with my own son. My students are like my own children. I share with their parents a pride in our children’s accomplishments.

Michelle Guyer

Grade/Subject: EC-12 Special Education

School: Scobee Elementary

School District:
Northside ISD


I am an elementary teacher in the Northside Independant School District in San Antonio, Texas. I am a retired medical technician from the Air National Guard. I retired at the rank of MSgt. My husband Michael and I have 4 children ranging from 11 to 20 years of age. I am originally from Pennsylvania. I have been teaching at Scobee Elementary for the past 14 years. I was activated during 9-11. I reported to active duty January 2002 for several months, leaving my teaching position here. I was very fortunate to be able to return to Scobee with open arms, when I was
released from duty in July 2002. I went to school while I was on active duty and received my Associate Degree in Health Science through the Community College of the Air Force. I then followed on with furthering my education while I transitioned into the Air National Guard. I graduated from Bloomsburg State University in Pennsylvania with a major in education (Pre-K thru 8th). I never really took advantage of the GI Bill to pay for my education. I relied mainly on
loans and grants. Whenever a sign-up bonus came around I would always just miss it due to re-enlistment dates, or it would not be for my career field. When I signed on with TTT I was not aware of all the benefits. I received a stipend/bonus, which was a true blessing in disguise.

I am very active in my community. I have a passion for children, animals, and running. I have raised money for a local wild animal orphanage as a community project in which my students participated. We had a mile run and raised over $2,000. I have assisted with my
school district's NEF 5K Run/Walks, and Stop Diabetes Run/Walks. I started a kids running program which is a non-profit organization, "Kids Run San Antonio" ( We are part of the"Presidents Challenge" for children. On Saturday, November 10, 2012, my young runners will be running a race, "ING KIDS Rock". They have been training for the last 8 weeks in a kid-friendly marathon. We have dedicated the training in honor of military family and friends, since it is the Marine Corps' birthday and Veterans Day weekend. Our theme is "A FEW Good Kids, Running For A Few Good Men."

I recently finished taking a class, "Parent-Partner Training," in my district. This program's purpose is to assist parents in need with routines, ideas, structure in their environment. It has a liaison effect between the parent/child/school. The training hours are volunteered time. Teachers receive additional salary for contract time.

I want to make a difference. I want to strengthen the children, I come in contact with, to develop life long healthy tools. I tell my students that they are my future, and I have expectations of them. I often tell them they are bold, brave, and beautiful. I have had many students through the years that have stayed in contact. I want to be able to give back. I want to continue to serve. I am the person I am today because of my family, my military family, my school family, my career path, and because of support from organizations such as Troops To Teachers. Thank you for this opportunity to share.

David E. Bass

Grade/Subject: High School English

School: Ellison High School

School District:
Killeen Independent School District

I retired from the U.S. Army in 2006 after 21 years of service. I am a veteran of two combat operations, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. I commanded the 304th Maintenance Company during Desert Storm. I was a Signal Officer in the 1st Cavalry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I am very proud of my service to the United States of America.

I retired here in Killeen, a proud military community near America’s largest military installation, Fort Hood. I participated in the Troops to Teachers program and completed my certification at Texas State University at San Marcos, Texas. I was hired to teach English at Ellison High School in the Killeen Independent School District in 2006. This is my seventh year teaching at Ellison High School. Many of my students are the children of our soldiers stationed at Fort Hood. I am very proud that I continue to serve our soldiers by teaching their children.

The accomplishment that I am most proud of at Ellison High School is our Poetry Café. This is my fifth year sponsoring this unique event. Once each month, the librarians and I set up the Poetry Café in the library with comfortable couches and chairs, electronic candles, and a speaker and light system on a small stage. We invite students to come to the Poetry Café during lunchtime and perform their poetry and music. What started out as a small event has turned into a very big, exciting event. Dozens of students come to the Poetry Café to relax, listen to their fellow students perform poetry and music, and perform their own poetry and music. Our crowds are “standing room only”.

Students show up with poetry journals that no one, including their parents and teachers, even knew existed. It turns out these students have been writing poetry for years. The Poetry Café is the first time they have ever shared their poetry. At first, most students are very shy to perform their poems in front of a crowd. But I put them at ease, assure them that their poetry is important, and then they get up and share their poems. The poems are amazing! They are passionate, they are rich with emotion, and they are genuine expressions of creativity and the dreams and aspirations of our wonderful students. Since we are a multi-cultural school, we invite students to perform poetry in their native languages, and we have listened with joy to beautiful poems in Japanese, Farsi, German, Spanish and many other languages that reflect the rich diversity of our community.

The same is true for our musicians. Students show up with all types of instruments. Many of the lyrics are original songs composed by the students. Some students sing beautiful a cappella, some play guitars, some play keyboards, some students rap, some sing in their native languages. The students say, “Mr. Bass, I am so nervous!” but I encourage them to perform and, once they do and they hear the applause of their fellow students and see the smiles on their faces, the students cannot wait to get up on the stage again.

Many of our poets and musicians are the shy kids, the “nerds”, the outsiders. They never would have dreamed of getting up in front of an audience and sharing their poetry and music. But because the Poetry Café is a welcoming, relaxed, informal event full of peace and a place, as the students say, they can “just chill”, students feel comfortable. They gain the confidence to share their poems and perform their music and all of us are better people for it. I know the confidence our students gain by getting up on our stage and sharing their poetry and music makes them stronger; stronger creatively, stronger spiritually, and stronger as future artists, musicians, and young adults who will go on to accomplish great things.

We have created a special sense of community at our Poetry Café. I am very proud of the opportunity I have had to imagine and create this special and unique event at our high school. I thank Troops to Teachers for opening the door for me. I am very proud to be a teacher in Texas!

Larry Rasmussen

Grade/Subject: Computer Skills Teacher

School: Wood Elementary

School District:
Terrell ISD

Several years ago, I was selected as Campus Teacher of the Year, selected as Teacher of the month several times (most recent Oct 2012), competed in First Lego League's Robotics challenge for the past two years (advanced to regionals Dec 2012) and been a happy part of Team Wood.

Some past achievements include students playing for the NFL (Bryce M., C. Wilson, Kennedy boys), Doctors and successful graduates in many branches of business. I have been approached by numerous former students in the community and as far away as Tyler TX (80 miles South East of Terrell.

Both My Wife and myself are teachers in the same school and it seems that I have 1 of my three daughters that I have passed my legacy of teaching on to. This year she got certified in Elementary Education.

Marlene A. McDaris

Grade/Subject: 3rd Grade

School: Esparza Elementary

School District:
Northside ISD


As a previous recipient of the TTT stipend (2001 or so), I am again reminded of how important our profession is. Today, Dan Leija and Charles Holsen were honored in the San Antonio Express News (Sunday Edition). I have also been at Gregorio Esparza for over 13 years. We share many core values and in daily discussions, we always credit our work ethic and positive attitudes on our long Air Force careers. We need more educators with the discipline and passion we all share. It is really nice to be reminded of why we teach as well as with whom we share an important profession.

Taken from Ms. McDaris' "outreach page on the school web site:

I retired from the Air Force in 1993 after 24 years and I often share many of my experiences with my class.  I have high expectations for all of my students.  My goal this year is to help each of my students be the best student he or she can be.  I expect to keep them motivated and moving through the use of music, hands-on experiences and high-interest topics.

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