BARSTOW When Sidney Tharpe exited the military after 20 years, he had to find something else to do.
So Tharpe headed for the classroom.

"I just like working with kids," said the Apple Valley resident, who was stationed at Fort Irwin from 1996 to 2004, and is now in his third year of teaching elementary special education students.

Tharpe made the transition from the military to the classroom with the help of Troops to Teachers, a federal program run by the U.S. Department of Education, which is holding an informational sessions at Fort Irwin and the Marine Corps Logistics base on Wednesday.

Robert Bartron, military transition recruitment specialist with Troops to Teachers who will be at Wednesday's session, said that education and the military share some similar qualities.

You will be successful in teaching if "you're effective in a large bureaucratic association," said Bartron.

"Not everybody in the military makes a good teacher. Those [who do] are who we're seeking," said Bartron.

The program also offers compensation of up to $10,000 for teachers who work in economically disadvantaged districts.

While about 85 percent people who express interest are retirees, Bartron said the program also aims to recruit active duty soldiers three or four years before they leave the military since the process to become a credentialed teacher can a few years.

Jim Ybarra, a teacher at Peary Middle School in Gardena, flew Apache and Black Hawk helicopters for 24 years before becoming a history and English teacher.

While his habit of early mornings and personnel management skills have translated directly to the classroom, Ybarra said he has to be more conventional with aspects like discipline.

"You can't put everybody in a push-up position," he said.

The program focuses on helping teachers get jobs in high demand subjects, such as math, science and special education, according to Bartron.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or

Troops to Teachers Information Session
Where: Education building at Fort Irwin, and McTureous Hall (Bldg. 218) at the Marine Corps Logistics Base.
When: Wednesday. One hour sessions start at 8 a.m. at Fort Irwin, and 2:30 p.m. at the MCLB.
Questions: Call Fort Irwin's education office at (760) 380-4218, or the MCLB Education Services Office at (760) 577-6118.