Principal Ernie Rosado is the epitome of doing what’s right in life; serving his country, pursuing personal and professional goals, taking care of family, and giving back to his community. His story starts in 1978 with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Puerto Rico, where he was introduced to the value of leadership and the importance of discipline. After he was commissioned, his military career began pulling alerts with the missile nuclear program and the Minuteman-III, where he served on crew perfecting teamwork and doing his job to the best of his ability. His Air Force career included other roles as Deputy and Commander, missile instructor and evaluations, and various other leadership positions further expanding his skills.
As life would have it though, Rosado’s military service took a personal turn when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. What did he do? He did the right thing. Rosado turned down promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and retired early. His main focus now was to take care of his wife. At this point in life, Rosado asked himself that question many military members find themselves asking, “What does a missile launch officer do in the civilian world?” He had no idea.
He went to the University of West Florida to look at becoming a math teacher. They said certification would take 3½ years, but he needed a job sooner. Teaching simply didn’t look like an option; but a month later, Rosado received a call from the Special Education Department at West Florida telling him that DANTES, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support and the university were setting up a “Troops to Teacher” program. “Sounded interesting…” said Rosado and he took a chance. He was sent to observe behavioral disorder students at a local middle school, “And something in my heart said, “This is it. This is what you were meant to do.””
About 25 prior-military students were recruited for the program. Rosado remembers, “We went through a few classes and a few left. We were down to ten half way through. Four members made it all the way.” Certified in 18 months, they received a Masters in Special Education and graduated in 1995 – all thanks to a non-traditional program called Troops to Teachers (TTT).
Rosado began his student teaching in Alabama. Two months in, a shortage of special education teachers opened the door with an interview on a Friday and a job on Monday, with ten behaviorally-challenged students, “And it was tough… transitioning from the military with order and policy to students misbehaving all the time.”
Did the military training help? Rosado quickly replies, “Yes! It did… I used the skills I had from the military and I tailored it to the classroom… loyalty, respect, consistency, work ethic and helping my kids prepare for their future.”
Fast-forward a few years and Rosado was groomed for an administrative position and returned to school to complete his administrative certification. Every year, he updated his experience with TTT and eventually became an assistant principal, “I never thought that the skills of a missile launch officer could translate into a teaching position and it did… any of us in the military have something inherent in our training… organization skills, leadership skills, teamwork.”
The next step for Rosado was to become a principal. This proved not an easy task, “I was told that I just wasn’t the perfect fit.” He was passed over several times and decided to get his doctorate degree. Education was one thing he never took for granted. Then, one day, he fit. An Army Reserve principal was called to active duty and Rosado was selected to fill the position. “From ROTC, to active duty, to retiring, and DANTES helping me transition into the new world through the Troops to Teachers program, it all came together and I said here’s my time to show’em what a retired Air Force officer can do. It was a blessing,” said Rosado.
Ernie Rosado eventually became Principal of Gulf Shores High School, Alabama, in 2008, where today he’s proud to walk the halls and mingle with students and teachers alike, “Now, after nine years, I think I’ve made a major difference… it’s been an awesome career through DANTES and TTT taking that leap of faith and doing it through the non-traditional way.”
After nine years as Gulf Shores Principal, Rosado is moving on, but not without some advice for other military members looking to teach…
What’s next? By choice, Rosado is taking his love for education and returning to his military roots. He will become a military admissions officer for Columbia Southern University, where he says boldly, “Education opens the doors of opportunity and you better be ready with your education cause when that door opens up, if you’re not ready, it’s gonna close and they’ll go with somebody else.”