Sweeney, Jim: Panama Canal Zone teacher, later DoDDS-Panama teacher: 1972–1999.

The school system in Panama was originally run by the Panama Canal Division of Schools, a branch of the Canal Zone Government. Prior to that, the tiny number of dependent American students attended makeshift schools during the early construction days.

By 1942, Balboa High School had a beautiful tile-roofed campus, a stadium, and a gym. Later, more buildings were added to include a shop, science and ROTC buildings, an auditorium, and a junior college wing, which later reverted back to the high school when the junior college moved to a new location in La Boca at a former Latin American employee dependents’ school.


Kowalchyk, Tricia: Teaching in the Philippines

It was the last day of school in June of 1991. By then, now the 15th, my fourth graders were
very, very excited to go to the Subic Bay beach for our end of the year party. I had just
completed my second year teaching on the Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines. This was
my first job, and at a young 23, I was having the experience of my life. (more…)

McGillivray, Allison: Fulda, Germany: 1994

The following is republished from Allison’s original post on Medium.

On Having Your Senior Year Turned Upside Down

The Class of 2020 is in a position that’s uniquely their own. But certain aspects of it have me reflecting on my own senior year…

Photo of Fulda American High School facade

The Class of 2020 is about to finish their final year of high school under unprecedented circumstances. Long-held traditions and carefully laid plans have been waylaid. I have some idea how they feel. My senior year was pretty weird, too.

I went to school on a U.S. Army post in a small German town near the border between East and West Germany. The U.S. military’s Cold War-era mission there was to defend a mountain pass that was strategically important: the Fulda Gap. It was there that the Russians would most likely come through to the West in case of an invasion. (Spoiler alert: they didn’t! The border came down and the two countries became one again. Yay!)

I’d lived in Fulda and attended school on the Army post since 2nd grade, and I always assumed I’d have an ordinary senior year much like my brothers did years before me. But in 1993, the U.S. Government decided that with the Cold War over and Germany reunified, it was time to shut down some American installations in Europe — and Fulda’s fate was sealed.


Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Giessen High, Germany: 1997 – 2001

In 1997, I was delighted to receive a transfer to return to Germany after sixteen years away. In the interim, the Berlin Wall had come down, and East and West Germany were reunited. America was involved in conflicts in Bosnia and Korsovo, with parents deployed from Giessen. Improved telephone service and the Internet made communication with the States quick and inexpensive. When I began teaching in DoDDS, families whose children had special needs were not sent overseas; but educational trends had evolved since the cultural upheaval of the 1960’s to include mainstreaming of special needs students and the concept of IEPs.

Until after I arrived, I didn’t discover the troublesome relationship between the school and community that existed in Giessen. The NCA report given in early 1998 stated that “there’s plenty of technology,…“discipline is a major concern,…[and] kids have little pride in the school”— facts most of the faculty well knew.  (more…)

Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Naples High, Agnano/Pozzuoli, Italy: 1996-1997

School year 1996-97 was the last spent in the three-story white horseshoe-shaped building located behind the Agnano Main Headquarters in Pozzuoli, Italy. The classrooms were large but dark, and when we opened windows hoping for a cooling breeze, we let in the smell of sulphur from the Solfatera volcano and Campi Flegrei. 

The basement cafeteria was located within the center of the horseshoe, its roof extending high enough to allow windows and its surface flat enough for us to hold assemblies on top. At the close of the school day, the buses would ring around the cafeteria on a narrow driveway and students would exit the main building through four or five doorways. (more…)

Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Osan AFB High School, Korea: 1995-1996

August 28, 1995 marks the opening day of the new high school on Osan Air Force Base in Korea. Previously, American dependents riding buses to Seoul High were spending three and four hours in traffic, so the Korean government agreed to build a new high school at their expense. Many of us on the new faculty were returning from yearlong leaves of absence.

The new building was a teacher’s dream.  Each classroom had its own television monitor, video machine, computer and laser printer, Class C (military only) telephone, a lockable coat closet for the teacher, white dry-erase boards, and new furniture unmarred by ink marks or chewing gum. 


Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Taegu High School, Korea: 1993-1994

It was bound to happen in 1993 as the Department of Defense implemented a world-wide drawdown. My French position was RiF’ed in the Azores and I was given the option of going to Korea or leaving the system.

At that time, the city of 4 million in central Korea where I was assigned was called Taegu.  A few years later, it was renamed on English maps as Daegu. The Army occupied three camps:  Walker for support, Henry for administration, and George for housing and the schools. One principal served both the elementary and high school students. She catered to the little ones by filling her office with stuffed animals.


Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Lajes, Azores: 1992-1993

Prior to 1992, the pleasure of an assignment to the Azores was a well-kept secret:   slow-paced, pastoral life-style with old-world European cultural charm, Portuguese architecture fronted by decorative sidewalks, friendly locals, small classes, yet with frequent space-available flights through Lajes AFB to the US or Europe. Teachers sent there chose to stay, some even buying homes on the island. 

All that changed in 1992 when the Portuguese government decided to enforce a little-known policy of limiting stays by foreign nationals to three years. The result for DoDDS meant a nearly-complete turnover in teaching staff. I was one of the lucky ones,  a CONUS re-hire after a 15-year hiatus spent teaching in the US public schools of Washington, Kansas, and California. And I must acknowledge that the new staff benefitted by wonderful packets detailing classes taught, activities established, as well as lists of favorite restaurants and local events from those who departed. 


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