John, when did you begin your career as a teacher and administrator with DODDS? In 1970, I came into DODDS with my wife and two kids. Our first assignment was Asmara, Ethiopia. There was a U.S. communications base and satellite tracking station there.

Did you get to meet Emperor Haile Selassie? We were there just one year, and it was one of Haile Selassie’s final years of his reign, and he came to our school during the springtime. It was really awesome and very inspiring. It was during a school festival, and our students did some square dancing and performed typical American songs, and the Ethiopians did their native dances. It was just neat seeing the congenial fellowship, and with the emperor there taking it all in, it was a very special day.

Why did you leave Ethiopia? At that time, politically, it was getting a little hot because the emperor’s 2nd Division troops were continually battling the Eritrean Liberation Front. It was a very interesting era, but since I had a young family, and it was getting risky there, I decided it was a good idea to leave Ethiopia.

Where did you go next? I requested a transfer to Bamberg, Germany, and taught sixth grade there for two years. I then put in paperwork to be an administrator, and from 1973-74 I was the assistant principal of a DODDS elementary school in Madrid. We went to Seville, Spain, for a year, where I was a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher of all subjects, as well as the school principal for 120 kids.

You and your wife took early retirement from DODDS in 1993. What did you do? I worked for a couple of publishing companies ... and even worked in a restaurant for a little while. I did a little bit of everything. I even worked as a antiques dealer.

What is your favorite antique? We have some nice Japanese Edo-period carvings and some Meiji-period stuff, so it’s hard to say. The most unique find is a 300-year-old, two-paneled, Korean wrought-iron gate in a heavy oak frame with a peaked roof on it. My staff teases me because I use it at school to hide my refrigerator and other stuff.

How did you get back into education? Well, I really missed DODDS, so a couple of friends of mine helped me get back into the system, and so I came to Cummings Elementary School in Misawa and have been here for the last eight years.

Have you been a tough principal? I don’t think so. Today, I thoroughly enjoy getting out of my office and away from the computer to get into the classrooms.

What is your favorite movie on education? "Blackboard Jungle." It’s a ’50s classic with Glenn Ford. It’s a story about a very impressionable teacher going into L.A. and how his idealism is initially crushed by an impoverished and lacking schoolroom school room, but day by day, he got the students with him. It’s a very inspiring movie.

What are teachers’ biggest obstacles for the future? Things in technology are happening so fast that as teachers we have to keep up with the kids, so we can serve and assist them fully. I have second-, third- and fourth-graders here working PowerPoint presentations. The Internet is a wonderful but dangerous resource.

John Williams

Age: 70

Location: Misawa Air Base, Japan

Claim to fame: Principal, Cummings Elementary School

Pacific readers: Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Call Paul Newell at Stars and Stripes with the person’s name and contact information at DSN 229-3158 or e-mail him at:

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