Chapter 2. Reunion with Students - Michael McCaskey Photography

Looking toward meeting my former students, I was a little apprehensive. More than forty years had passed since I had been their teacher. They would be grown men, in their 50’s, with their own families and life stories of which I was unaware. After all these years, they would look quite different from what I remembered and I would certainly look quite different to them.

Other than summer jobs, being a teacher in the Peace Corps was my first full-time responsibility. Since I would be in a small village a long ways away from help, I was largely on my own. I was determined to be a good teacher and devoted myself to my classes and my students. My two years in Ethiopia seemed so special and uniquely important to me— now those memories were at risk.

The first former student to call was Taye. He had excelled in all his classes and had been my tutor in Amharic, the challenging principal language of the country. In recent months we had re-established contact through e-mails and he had flown in from Kenya to be part of the reunion. We met in the hotel lobby to big smiles and hugs and tried at a fast clip to cover the years since we had been together.

The reunion touched me deeply… a teacher couldn’t ask for more. Former students were excited to see me and complimentary about the help I had been to them. Adding to my feeling of joy was the gratifying observation that so many of these men had gone on to be quite successful. Their accomplishments were all out of proportion to what you might expect from a remote farming town and trading center. The Fitche gang included entrepreneurs, businessmen, lawyers, a pilot for Ethiopian Airlines, an ambassador, a university professor, grade school teachers and a conservation director for the World Wildlife Fund. 

Such a record of accomplishment seemed remarkable to Mark and me. We talked over the possible reasons and discussed the topic with men from Fiche.

They said that education was their one way to advance in Ethiopian society and so they were determined not to miss their chance. If family difficulties arose and set them back for a time, they returned more tenacious than ever. In addition, family members including parents, siblings, aunts and uncles were counting on them. Furthermore they were kind to say, Peace Corps teachers had been an inspiration to them with their optimistic, problem-solving orientation.

All together theirs was a remarkable record of accomplishment. I felt supremely rewarded for the hours I had spent preparing for class and teaching them. What a wonderful gift to a teacher!

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