Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Teacher Abroad

I had to leave Illinois or die of boredom. Traveling with students to Europe every other summer was great, but it was never enough. I wanted the time and opportunity to live in Europe and explore every country, castle, and cathedral. I started to explore possibilities for working in Europe. I looked at and applied for teacher exchanges and international schools. I saw an ad in Psychology Today: "TEACH IN EUROPE! Send a SASE and $2.00 for complete information." What I got in return was a mimeographed list of agencies for international schools plus a new one: Department of Defense Dependents Schools. I had never heard of it but sent away for their application. (This was 1985--when we still wrote letters on typewriters and mailed them at the post office.) I received a large, thick envelope with the famed "Apple Book" and an application for DoDDS and federal employment. Still knowing very little, I filled it out and sent it to Washington.

Later that year, I was asked to come for a personal interview at the Federal Building in Chicago, where a principal from some school in the Pacific met with me. The interview went well; however, I got a letter later that year saying they weren't hiring anyone (this was 1986). Did I want to keep my application active for another year? Yes, I did.

Another school year rolled by. Early in the summer of 1987, I got a registered letter from DoDDS offering me a position teaching in the Azores. This was exciting, but, first of all, I had never heard of the Azores, nor did I know where they were. This was B.I. (before the Internet), so we went to the public library and looked it up in encyclopedias (remember those?). I was shocked to see how small the Azore Islands were and where they were (800 miles off the coast of Portugal). In addition, the weather was described there as very windy. The topper was that DoDDS did not authorize concurrent travel for my family. If I took the job, they would have to follow later. Bummer. I had a whole 48 hours to reply. I agonized over this. because I wanted to get into the system so badly. In the end, though, I knew I couldn't take it and wrote back that I would love to teach for DoDDS but that I could not take the position due to having to leave my family and the location of the school. I told them I wanted my whole family to have the opportunity to travel to other places together and I hoped they could offer me something else.

Turning down that job offer was one of the hardest things I ever did. A month went by. I thought it was too late for anything to happen. Then, in July, another letter came, this one offering me a job in Ansbach, Germany, as a reading specialist at the high school! This one was easy--I accepted it! Luckily, my husband had just left a bad job and he was up for any kind of move. The kids were three and eight and excited as we were. In just one month, I got a leave of absence from my position at Hall, rented my house, gave away or stored a bunch of stuff, we were in Germany by the first week in September, 1987. The great adventure had begun!


  1. It will never be enough...

  2. really like hearing your story--thanks!! C

  3. Yes, the girls were/are so cute; I remember them so well when they were that age. My how time flies! I would love to go back and be about 30-ish again and do it all over again, at least most of it.

  4. awwww, I love hearing stories like these!