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Luigina Rova-Byther has worked 38 years as a Department of Defense Dependents Schools teacher.
Luigina Rova-Byther has worked 38 years as a Department of Defense Dependents Schools teacher. (Kent Harris / S&S)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — If she hadn’t followed her mother’s advice, Luigina Rova-Byther could have spent her career greeting VIPs who flew into Milan on Trans World Airlines.

Instead, the dutiful daughter took a job teaching Americans at the base near where Mom lived. Thirty-eight years, hundreds of colleagues and thousands of students later, Rova-Byther has decided to move on to the next stage in her life: retirement.

Not that life’s likely to be that much different around the Byther household.

“Nothing’s going to change,” said her husband, John, who retired two years ago after a 30-plus-year career with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools himself.

“I’ll still answer the phone and say, ‘Luigina isn’t home.’ She’s a very, very involved person.”

Friends, colleagues and local dignitaries gathered Wednesday in the school’s library to honor Rova-Byther and dedicate a section of Italian-themed books as the Luigina Rova-Byther Italian Collection.

The 64-year-old Italian teacher received numerous gifts and accolades from students and colleagues. Some were caught on a tape that students produced for her. Others came in brief remarks during the ceremony.

Fellow teacher Ken McNeely called Rova-Byther “unique, one-of-a-kind, a person who touches everyone around her.”

“I’m an old math teacher,” he said. “Equality is an important thing in mathematics. They will find someone to teach her classes, someone to walk in her classes … but they will never find someone to do what she has for Aviano.”

She taught French and Italian and taught at all grade levels. Some years she taught at more than one school.

“I feel I’ve done a lot, but there’s always so much more you could do,” she said.

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