When my husband Lewis told me that he wanted to take a job in Germany, I was apprehensive. We had a second grader with an IEP for Autism and he was receiving excellent services at our school in Georgia. Rincon Elementary was our family school. I was the nurse there and both of our children were students. I loved the principal, the teachers and students. It was not easy to leave the security of our small town and our school to face the unknown. However, I knew that it was important to my husband to have this career experience.
So, I e mailed the principal of the Department of Defense school, Dr. Claus. I just briefly introduced myself to him and explained our situation. The next morning when I woke up and checked my e mail, my in box was full of messages from various people at the school. A personal message from him was the first one I came to. In it, he welcomed us to the community and said that he couldn’t wait to meet us. He explained that he’d taken the liberty of forwarding my message to all of the people who would need to assist us with our transition. I scrolled down the list: the registrar, the counselor, the school nurse, the psychologist, etc. I was welcomed by each staff member and told exactly what paperwork needed to be sent along and exactly what I needed to do to enroll my children in the school. The uncertainty and anxiety vanished. I was so impressed.
I can’t say enough good things about DES. I miss it to this day. The children’s art work gracing the walls, the staff, the support of the military community. I completed my student teaching there, my children went there, and I taught my first group of students there. What wonderful memories. Those who have read my novel will recognize people from the school, and events that went on there. The art auction scene in This She’ll Defend is based on a real event. I still remember Dr. Claus standing there as the auctioneer generating enthusiasm for the bidding. It was a fun night. When I decided to write the novel, I knew that I had to include our experiences at the school.
Life is full of lessons. Some of them good, and some of them painful. Moving our family to Germany was full of lessons– one of the main ones is that sometimes you have to take risks in order to experience all that life has to offer. It would have been “safer” and “easier” to stay right here in Rincon. But we took a risk and tried to experience all that comes with living in another country. I won’t say that 100% of our experience was easy or perfect, because that would simply not be true. There are always challenges in every situation. But I don’t regret it for one second. Our experiences there have become integrated into our family’s matrix like nothing else ever has.
I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone at DES that made our transition so seamless. I’ll never forget it. I think that public education receives so much criticism these days, but I am eternally grateful for all of the wonderful teachers that my children have had–both in Europe through DODDS and stateside.