CHICAGO – On behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn and in conjunction with National Teacher Appreciation Day, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) today presented retired U.S. Army Major and Chicago Public Schools Teacher Aaron Rucker with the first-ever Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education in recognition of his outstanding service and contributions to public education.
IDVA Director Dan Grant presented the Governor’s Award to Rucker, 42, during a ceremony at Marshall Metropolitan High School, 3250 W. Adams St., Chicago, where Rucker is a special education teacher. Director Grant also honored Rucker, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a former Special Forces Officer, as May 2011 Veteran of the Month.
“Major Rucker is a man of high achievement and commitment, having honorably and courageously served his country in Afghanistan, and is now successfully using those skills to teach children in the Chicago Public Schools,” Governor Quinn said. “For his unwavering service and achievement, he is absolutely deserving of both the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, and Veteran of the Month.”
The Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education is given to a military veteran and participant of the Illinois Troops to Teachers program (www.iltroops.org) who has excelled in the field of public education. Rucker, also a former Chicago Police Officer, currently chairs Marshall’s special education department and also teaches Economics, U.S. History and World Studies. “Troops to Teachers” is a federal program administered in Illinois by IDVA. It assists post-deployment servicemembers transitioning to new careers as public school teachers by providing financial assistance, education counseling and job referrals for veterans working in public education.
The IDVA “Veteran of the Month” Award highlights the work of military veterans who provide inspiration and leadership to their communities and other veterans through continued public service. Rucker, who was wounded in Afghanistan, was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal and National Defense Service Medal, among other awards, for his service.
Rucker, a Chicago native, is also a member of the Disabled American Veterans, is an active participant in the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center’s “Feed a Veteran” program and works with the Wounded Warrior Project. He also holds three master’s degrees in education and is Type 75 and Type 10 certified.
“Major Aaron Rucker epitomizes the type of service and advocacy we are always proud to honor,” said IDVA Director Dan Grant. “He is a role model for all of us – veteran and civilian – on how effective we can be and how great a difference we can make when we choose to serve the people in our communities. We hope his great example encourages other Illinois veterans with an interest in public education to utilize the Troops to Teachers program.”