DODDS-Pacific welcoming new faces
When the bell rings in the first day of school on Monday for the 2007-08 year, plenty of fresh new faces will be roaming the halls of Department of Defense Dependents Schools throughout the Pacific.
About 230 of them will be teachers.
For some, it will be a first job with a base school. Others are transferring from within the system.
The following are typical of new arrivals to Pacific schools:
OkinawaLinda Arndt, 27, a self-described “Army brat,” said she joined DODDS because she wanted to travel.
“I kinda missed being overseas and I knew about DODDS because I had been in it,” said the new librarian for Killin Elementary School.
“I loved it. I loved moving around and seeing new places. I got to see all of Europe. I was in Germany when the wall fell. I was really lucky,” she said.
Arndt said she thinks her childhood experiences make her a better DODDS educator.
“You can relate a little better to what the children are going through,” she said.
Before getting her master’s degree in library science, Arndt taught middle and high school in North Carolina. She said being a librarian lets her work on projects with teachers and work with students of all age groups, getting them excited about obtaining information.
Arndt, who had never been to Asia before, said she likes Okinawa.
The hardest part for her has been finding a place to live.
“I have been out with a million rental agencies, I’ve climbed a million stairs,” she said. “I haven’t found that house that sings to me.”
JapanA teacher for more than 20 years, Diane McDaniel will start her first job with DODDS at Yokota Air Base, where she will be the speech and language pathologist at the elementary, middle and high schools.
“I love my job,” she said. “The best part is when you see kids improve; it really can change their whole lives.”
A native of Oceanside, Calif., she has worked in the United States and overseas, including Japan two decades ago.
“I may be new to DODDS, but I’ve been around the block a few times,” she said, adding that she chose to come to a base school after hearing “good things about DODDS from friends and colleagues who had taught for them.”
A benefit of working on a military base, she said, is that the tight-knit community will allow her to have more contact with the parents so that she can best meet their children’s needs.
Outside of the classroom, McDaniel said that she is looking forward to living in Japan and getting the chance to travel throughout Asia.
She also wants to brush up on her Japanese.
“You forget a lot in 20 years,” she laughed. “But some is already starting to come back to me.”
South KoreaSometimes teachers come in pairs.
Scott and Karen Morris come to Seoul from a DODDS school in Hanau, Germany, where Scott taught Spanish and Karen taught special education.
Scott, 51, will teach the same subject at Seoul American Elementary School and Karen, 48, will stay with her specialty at Seoul American High School.
Both have worked with DODDS for four years. Karen, a teacher for 13 years, was placed in South Korea after a series of school closures in Germany last year. Because of the downsizing, Scott was able to accompany her.
The El Paso, Texas, native said she decided to teach after assisting deaf children in the Philippines while working as an audiologist with the Peace Corps.
The two also have taught at civilian schools in El Paso and Flagstaff, Ariz.
“It’s different, but I think we’re going to like it,” Karen said about the contrast between teaching in Germany and South Korea. She said she’ll miss the bread and beer in Germany, but likes Korean food and thinks the people are very friendly.
Moving is something she’s come to expect after working for DODDS.
“If you’re not up for change, you’re working for the wrong people,” she said. “I’m glad to be here experiencing something different.”
GuamNot only will students at Guam High School, McCool Middle School and Andersen Middle School receive a new teacher when Victor Leister, 45, begins classes Monday, they’ll get a whole new subject as well.
Leister will teach Chinese at all three schools. This year marks the first time Defense Department schools on Guam will offer the language.
“It was a chance to build the Chinese program here,” he said. “I find that exciting.”
This will be his first year working with military family members, but not his first year teaching.
Leister learned Chinese after participating in an international exchange program when he was 19, leaving his hometown in Sunnyvale, Calif., for China.
“That opened a whole new world for me,” he said.
He went on to major in East Asian studies at George Washington University.
Leister has taught around the world, including in Japan, Thailand, China and the Middle East.
He most recently taught second grade and Chinese in Las Vegas.
In addition to teaching Chinese, Leister said part of his job on Guam is to “drum up support” for the new program.
“I’m hoping that (teaching military dependents) is one of the positive aspects to teaching with the DOD,” Leister said. “I expect military kids will have a lot more structure in their lives than at public schools.”