This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri June 19th 2019. The Belle Banner is no longer in publication.
Teaching school is one of the most important, if not the most important, job in our society. There are good teachers, bad teachers, and great teachers. I don’t mean bad teachers are bad people. The bad teacher is usually a young person who just graduated from college, got their teaching certificate and landed their first teaching job. They know their subject but are unable to create a desire in their students to learn the subject. A subject of extreme importance in life like English (language arts) takes some ingenuity and leadership skills to create that desire. And worse, the bad teacher is unable to control the classroom. They usually last a year, sometimes two, but the students are the losers. The great teachers are always “up” and positive in the classroom. For example, the teacher who endures a devastating personal crisis, and yet the students in the classroom, that year, say that was my favorite teacher.
Great teachers inspire kids to want to learn. Great teachers are leaders. Amanda Kelly grew up around Easley, Missouri. Easley is a scattering of buildings next to the Katy Trail on the Missouri River, east of Ashland. Really out in the sticks. Amanda said that she had a rough childhood, she and four siblings raised by her grandparents, who also had their own young children. In an Army Times interview, she said; “I didn’t come from a really good background. I didn’t have a mom and dad. I don’t know who my dad is, so I wanted to be more than what I was raised in.” She said that looking back, her biggest motivators were good teachers. She said; “They saw something that I didn’t see. Since I was little, they always told me that I had some kind of hunger. I didn’t see that.” As an Army Sergeant in Iraq, with the 1st Armored Division, she told her battalion commander, a former green beret, that her career goal was to become the Sergeant Major of the Army, the top job. He took her as serious and helped her set some career milestones she needed to achieve, in order to some day be in consideration for the top job. This past September 2nd 2018, she became the first enlisted woman to graduate from Army Ranger training and receive the prestigious “Ranger Tab” on her uniform.
Staff Sergeant Amanda Kelly being pinned with the Ranger tab
Staff Sergeant Amanda Kelly is currently in the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She is not a Green Beret (yet), she is an Electronic Warfare Specialist assigned to the 3rd group.
But this story is not about being in the military. It is about teaching school to military children on a military installation. If you are a good school teacher and you enjoy teaching, but would like some travel and adventure, here’s how. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) manages 168 schools, employs 8,700 educators, and educates over 73,000 military children worldwide. DODEA students consistently test among the top schools in the country, so the teaching environment must be good and the teachers must enjoy being there.
Not every military installation in the US has schools that are run by DODEA. Fort Leonard Wood Schools are part of the Waynesville School District. The states that do have DODEA schools are; Alabama (3), Georgia (10), Kentucky (11), New York (2), North Carolina (15), South Carolina (5), and Virginia (3), plus Puerto Rico (4) and Cuba (1). Want to travel and see the world? There are DODEA schools where there are US military. Germany (35), Japan (19), Okinawa (13), South Korea (12), Italy (10), England (8), Belgium (5), Guam (4), Spain (3), The Netherlands (2), Bahrain (1), and Turkey (1).
Belle’s own Kevin Altemeyer, BHS Class of 1981, has been working for DODEA for several years. A couple years ago he and his family moved from Seoul, South Korea to Grafenwöhr, Germany. He teaches math and science at the Netzaberg Middle School, in Bavaria. When I told him that I was thinking of writing this article, he had this to say; “I can say I have enjoyed working for the soldiers that keep my family and I safe. It is rewarding giving my service back to the children of our service men and families. It is a great job!!! I love it! My wife is teaching too and the students are great kids and it is great being part of the traditions of DODEA! We have been blessed!”
Netzaberg Middle School
DODEA teachers are government employees, falling under government employee retirement, thrift savings plans, and health insurance. Moving is provided and if going overseas, and the government will ship your car, and while teaching overseas, the government will pay for your trip back to the states during the summer. DODEA employees may live in government family housing on the installation or live off and be paid a lucrative Living Quarters Allowance (LQA). Current and former DODEA teachers say that their LQA easily pays for a nice house. DODEA teachers have their own pay scales depending on education and specialty. After the starting salary there are yearly step increases for the first four years, then two years, and then three year step increases. The starting salary for a certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $45,450. A bachelor’s degree plus 15 semester hours (SH) is $46,930, plus 30 SH is $48,410, and a master’s degree starts at $49,890. After 10 years, the plain bachelor’s degree is at $58,410, and the master’s is at $66,540. Speech pathologists and social workers with a master’s degree starts at $52,805, after 10 years is $70,850. Guidance counselors with a master’s starts at $52,415. School psychologists with a master’s starts at $59,045. There are more pay scales based on education and profession. DODEA just advertised to fill a job at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The title is “Instructional Systems Specialist Mathematics PK-5”. The requirements were a master’s degree in education and five years experience in teaching math PK-5. The salary is $84,374.
For someone wanting to see another part of the world, this could be an enjoyable job. It is a competitive application. Aside from the bachelor’s degree in education and state certification, there is a lengthy background security investigation, and interviews. Applicants indicate a location preference, but they must indicate that they are willing to go where ever there is a requirement, worldwide, but if you were counting, there are 58 schools scattered around Europe. If you are teaching at the Middle High School on the Naples Navel Base in Naples, Italy, or at the one on the US Army post in Ansbach, Germany, or at the high school on Ramstein Air Force Base at Ramstein, Germany, you are on United States soil, surrounded by English speaking Americans. There are large exchanges (stores) and commissaries (grocery stores), as well as a fire department, a hospital or clinic, and military police patrolling.
Most comments from DODEA teachers are similar to Kevin’s, they love it. Great kids and great people to work with. Military kids are generally well behaved, but there is always “that one”. In a situation where an issue with a child cannot be resolved between the school and the parents, the parents’ commander gets involved and the situation is solved one way or another.
If you want to teach school but would like some adventure and would like to see some more of the country or the world, consider DODEA.