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Troops to Teachers sergeant named teacher of the year

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Eric Combs, a ninth-grade history teacher at Fairborn High School, was named the 2005 Ohio Outstanding Teacher of the Year.  Sergeant Combs entered the profession through Troops to Teachers.  (Courtesy photo)

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Eric Combs, a ninth-grade history teacher at Fairborn High School, was named the 2005 Ohio Outstanding Teacher of the Year. Sergeant Combs entered the profession through Troops to Teachers. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFMCNS) -- A retired senior master sergeant who used the Troops to Teachers program was surprised in December when he was named the 2005 Ohio Teacher of the Year.

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Eric Combs teaches ninth-graders at Fairborn High School and loves his work, but was surprised to find out just how much of an impression he’d made, he said.

A teacher for less than five years, Sergeant Combs entered the profession through Troops to Teachers, a federal program that encourages military members to become educators. He said he was honored for his selection.

“Each year, every school selects a nominee for Teacher of the Year. It’s a peer selection, and there are hundreds of people nominated.” Sergeant Combs said. “I didn’t know I was selected until the assembly.”

Sergeant Combs characterized his teaching philosophy as three-pronged.

“One — the mission is to always serve the students,” he said. “Two — master your subject. Know it. The kids will always come up with questions, so you must know what you’re talking about. And three — defy mediocrity. Take the extra step.”

Sergeant Combs credits his success in part to his military training. “The military prepared me for teaching, and there are things I learned in Senior NCO Leadership Academy that I use every day, things like organizational behavior and public speaking,” he said.

Part of what he called the “Delta method” of teaching, named for the symbol of change, Sergeant Combs works closely with three other teachers in a team concept.

“We complement each other,” he said. “For example, if I’m teaching about the Holocaust, maybe the science teacher can connect in some way, and maybe the English teacher can get involved.”

He said that Troops to Teachers allows people to teach in a subject area in which they have 30 hours or more and a bachelor’s degree. He’s always loved history, and the choice of what to teach was easy, he said.

Now working towards his second master’s degree, Sergeant Combs praised his fellow teachers and added that each is “a guidance counselor, a surrogate parent, philosopher, and psychologist. The responsibility is huge, but it’s serving people.

“I can look back and know that I’ve made the place better.”