By Natasha Brown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — From serving the country to serving students. A Department of Defense program is helping transition service members into the teaching field. On this Veterans Day, Eyewitness News spoke with one veteran who made the transition from troop to teacher.

Long before Joyce Abbott began teaching and walking the halls of Andrew Hamilton Public School in West Philadelphia, she was protecting and serving the country in the military, seeing combat as a young mother, in Operation Desert Storm.

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Joyce Abbott

“That was very difficult for me because, at that time, my daughter was like 3 years old and I was gone for almost a year,” Abbott said. “I was there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday and for the first couple of months, I cried every night.”

After several grueling deployments, Abbott left the Army after serving 10 years. She found her way from battle zones into school zones through the Troops to Teachers program.

“I found out about the Troops to Teachers program,” Abbott said. “And I think that actually started, I think I may have been the second cohort.”

The Department of Defense program helps to recruit and transition service members into the teaching field by providing financial support.

For Abbott, it was a perfect fit.

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“They pay for our teaching, they pay for all of my testing,” she said, “and then what they want you to do is serve, go into a school district, a public school district preferably, that serves disadvantaged youth. While I don’t consider the youth in here to be disadvantaged, Title 1 schools where they get free lunch, that’s where they want you, where the need is the most.”

For the past 24 years, Abbott has blended her military background with the classroom, bringing discipline, drive, determination and respect.

“It wasn’t like my class ran like a boot camp, no, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like that at all,” Abbott said. “We had very good relationships, we cared for each other.”

Abbott is now the climate manager at the school, overseeing disciplinary and behavioral issues.

“The respect is there, but even that has to be earned,” Abbott said.

Positive affirmations clutter her office walls. CBS3 asked why other veterans should think about life in teaching. She says it’s a life-changer.

“It’s rewarding. You are needed. What you have learned and endured during your time in the service can be used to literally change the life of a child,” Abbott said.

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The Troops to Teachers program started 28 years ago. About 28,000 people have taken part in the program since 1993.