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Seoul American High School teacher Agnes Fields used part of her summer break to tackle certification coursework in health and lodging management. That included a week at the Marriott Courtyard in Newark, Del.
Seoul American High School teacher Agnes Fields used part of her summer break to tackle certification coursework in health and lodging management. That included a week at the Marriott Courtyard in Newark, Del. (Jimmy Norris / S&S)

June. July. August.

Pages on a calendar to some. For others, three of the best things about being a teacher.

Most Department of Defense Dependents Schools teachers in the Pacific took full advantage of their summer break, whether that meant heading off for adventure, advancing academic pursuits or just staying put and relaxing.

Yokota Middle School seventh-grade science teacher Naif Shahady and his wife, Sandy, joined another couple on an RV ride around the American Southwest.

But about 17 days into the four-week odyssey, a member of the party required an emergency appendectomy that brought the trip to “a raging halt” in Moab, Utah, Sandy Shahady said.

Still, the experience was unforgettable, she said.

Among the sights they saw: Arches National Park and an old western church in Utah that’s appeared in more than 50 movies, cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado that once housed Ute Indians and Petroglyph National Monument, N.M., and its ancient rock drawings and carvings.

Uvella Knight, 46, the DODDS-Japan district educational technologist, spent six weeks at the family home in Ko Olina, Hawaii. But her time on Oahu wasn’t all fun in the sun.

Knight, who’s been with DODDS for 17 years, took three doctorate-level classes online: educational research strategies, arts and science of adult education, and applied statistics. She had a 16-week window to complete the coursework but pushed herself to finish in six.

“I don’t care if you’re in paradise, statistics is brutal,” said Knight, who works with administrators, teachers and students at every grade level in the Japan district. “I knew if I went home, I’d be free of distractions and could get it done … (But) I would have preferred being at the beach or pool a lot more than I got there.”

Knight says she has eight more classes to go before earning a doctorate in educational training and development leadership.

Agnes Fields, who teaches family and consumer science, lodging management and health at Seoul American High School in South Korea, also took coursework this summer.

She spent a week at the Marriott Courtyard in Newark, Del., getting her second level of certification in lodging management.

Fields, who’s been with Seoul American for two years, also took a health course online through the University of Phoenix so she could become certified to teach health. It required her to turn in six papers in two weeks.

Brian Barnes, who teaches chemistry and physics at Osan High School, attended a five-day advanced-placement chemistry conference at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash.

The seminar included blowing up gummy bears, vaporizing copper and making fireballs with denatured alcohol and gelatin.

“If this is how every AP conference will be, I’ll go back every year,” said Barnes, who’s beginning his second year at Osan and fourth year with DODDS.

Meanwhile, three staffers from the DODDS-Okinawa district went on a bike ride across Iowa this summer. Laurie Arensdorf, 32, a Kinser Elementary School teacher; Sally Wilkinson, 32, a Kadena Elementary School teacher; and Laura Stoller, spokeswoman for the Okinawa school district, cycled almost 500 miles in seven days.

The annual ride, sponsored by the Des Moines Register, drew 15,000-20,000 participants.

“I did it five years ago,” said Arensdorf, who is from Iowa. “Laura and Sally were the ones I knew that if I could hook them, they would last the whole way.”

It’s no place for Lance Armstrong; participants routinely show up in hula skirts, Superman capes and other costumes, she said.

But neither is it for the faint of heart.

“Iowa is not flat,” Wilkinson said. “The eastern side of Iowa definitely gets hilly. Going up the hills I got a little winded.”

Wilkinson said the trio routinely hit the road at about 6 a.m. and pedaled up to nine hours a day, spending evenings in an RV.

“I think the physical challenge and the mental challenge that I put myself though every day is what I am most proud of,” she said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Jimmy Norris and Will Morris contributed to this story.

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