Retiring DODDS teacher plans to write book on 46-year school experience
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A Kadena Elementary School teacher is retiring Saturday from the Department of Defense Dependents Schools system after 46 years of service.
But it’s not really retirement, said Emma McCoy, a compensatory education reading teacher for third and fourth graders: With world travel and writing a book in her plans, it’s “life after DODDS.”
McCoy will leave Okinawa on Saturday after six years — but in one sense, her departure from her DODDS job will be far speedier than her arrival. Hired to take a position in Germany in 1957, she left the states via boat and traveled 12 days to cross the Atlantic.
Since that first assignment, she has taught in DODDS schools in Germany, Ethiopia, Turkey, Norway and Japan. But, the 82-year-old said, grinning, “I can’t say they outweigh one another; I loved them all.”
Living in all those different cultures taught her to think differently, said McCoy. “No college course could’ve given me the knowledge I received from DODDS. Had I remained in the States, I wouldn’t see things the way I see them now.”
But now it’s time to go to the next phase of her life, she said. “I’ve enjoyed my time in the program and I’ve enjoyed the children. But I think that I’m at the top of the mountain, and I’d rather go out at the top than when I’m sliding down.”
She credits her job with her vitality. “The kids have kept me this way,” said McCoy, who added that she wants to make it to her 107th or even 110th birthday. “If I was not involved with children, I would not look and think the way I do today.”
Not seeing her around campus will be strange, said Deborah Carlson, assistant principal.
“You expect to see her when you walk out your door,” Carlson said. “She’s a fixture. People respect her loyalty to the school and her commitment to helping students. She also makes it her business to be at every meeting and wants to be involved overall, not just with her program.”
Carlson said the students McCoy worked with — primarily, children who had fallen behind and needed some extra help — might miss her most.
McCoy’s teaching longevity also appears to be a family thing. Her sister, Lottie McCoy, 85, taught for DODDS for 44 years, retiring in 1998 at 80. The sisters worked together four times, in Germany, Ethiopia, Norway and Turkey. Lottie said she wanted to work for DODDS because “I’m nosy ... I wanted to see the world. I read about all these places ... but I wanted to see for myself.”
The sisters plan to write a book about their lives — and also to become reacquainted with the United States by visiting parts of the country they’ve never seen.
In addition to sharing an apartment and family home in Columbus, Ohio, they also share an apartment in New York City. But Emma said they’re thinking about giving up the New York apartment and perhaps buying a condominium somewhere warm. Both spent more than 10 years in Norway and, they said, have had quite enough of shoveling snow.
But not of kids.
“In all my 46 years I’ve never had a child that I couldn’t work with,” Emma said. “I was always able to steer them in the right direction.”