Military veterans transition into CUSD teachers - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Military veterans transition into CUSD teachers

October 14th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Military veterans transition into CUSD teachers

By Murray Siegel
Guest Writer

As school districts struggle with an ongoing teacher shortage, Chandler Unified has found one group of people who can help: military veterans.

Tracy Phillips has been teaching seventh grade honors science at Santan Junior High School for six years. 

He had been a Navy chemist on a nuclear-powered cruiser and when his service was concluded, he attended Arizona State University and earned a chemical engineering degree.

He had been working as an engineer and manager when he realized that there was a growing need for young Americans to consider a STEM (science technology engineering mathematics) career and believed that if he taught junior high science, he might be able to inspire his students into choosing a career solving scientific problems. 

He said his experience at Santan Junior High has been exactly what he had hoped for as he engages his students with experiments such as firing bottle rockets.

An avid bicyclist, Phillips also coaches the school’s competitive mountain bike club. It competes in the Arizona Cycling Association, which has 1,500 competitors in grades 6-12 throughout the state. 

And the married father of four – including a son who serves on a nuclear submarine – isn’t finished enhancing his teaching career: He plans to return to school to get his certification as a teacher of gifted students.

Another military veteran teaching in CUSD is Christopher James, whose Army infantry service 2005-2009 included an 18-month tour in Iraq.

One event during his combat tour led him to a teaching career. His unit was tasked with constructing a school and when it was completed, James was impressed with the joy the children showed.

The youngsters lived with war’s daily terrors and yet school meant so much to them, he said. James wanted to be part of an environment where young people could find happiness in learning.

Once he left the Army, James attended ASU, obtaining an undergraduate and master’s degree in education. A teacher for 11 years, he is in his sixth year at Casteel High, where he teachers American history to juniors. James started a new elective class investigating 20th century U.S. military history and as part of that class, invites veterans to speak to students.

Christopher once considered pursuing a certification in school administration but decided he prefers the classroom.

He also coaches the girls golf team and is an assistant wrestling coach.