When Ball State students travel overseas each year to student teach in Germany, they can applaud educator Dr. Linda Curtis, who helped open those distant classroom doors nearly 20 years ago and make the experience possible.
Representing the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), Linda was part of a planning team–including officials from Ball State, Auburn, and Florida State universities–that met in 2003 to find opportunities for their students to do student teaching on U.S. military bases throughout the world.
“I remember Ball State wanted to ensure their student interns had the best experience overseas and to connect with the military students and families,” says Linda, who, at the time, was an education program administrator for DoDEA and a Hoosier from Fort Wayne. “DoDEA had an excellent reputation just like Ball State, so it was easy to connect them.”
In the 20 years since the program launched, more than 240 Ball State student teachers have taught children of U.S. military and civilian personnel stationed on military bases, such as Ramstein, Germany, where their dependents are ready for a world-class education. Unlike many student teaching programs, Ball State education majors live and work together in the same communities and explore the host country.
“This is evidence of Ball State’s unique commitment to their students who pursue a degree in education,” says Linda, who earned special education certification for learning disabilities and emotional and behavioral disorders at Ball State.
Linda retired as principal deputy director and associate director of academics in 2019 after 33 years with DoDEA. “Many educators make DoDEA their career as I did because it is a way to serve our country,” she says.
Before her retirement, she managed the instructional and educational programs of DoDEA’s 166 schools which enrolled 72,000 students worldwide.
“Guiding curriculum and instruction for over 166 schools around the world had many challenges and rewards,” says Linda. “I would not say the job was easy, but it was most rewarding working with military-connected students and families as well as the many dedicated and professional teachers and administrators.”
Rachel Geesa, assistant clinical professor of educational leadership at Ball State, says Linda was a role model to her when she worked with DoDEA as a teacher and administrator in Japan.
“We were pleased to have her visit because she wanted to talk with teachers, students, families, staff, and administrators, says Rachel. “She had the desire to continue to improve the student teaching program and enhance the opportunities and partnerships that were available between DoDEA and Ball State.””
Dr. Roy Weaver, retired dean of the Teachers College and an advocate of the student teaching program, remembers a heroic move by Linda several years ago when, four days before students were to leave the country, paperwork had not been processed to clear the group’s departure.
According to Roy, Linda worked with the appropriate DoDEA personnel to process the details just in time.
“Tickets had been purchased, teaching assignments had been made, housing had been secured—all those arrangements were in place,” he says. “Without Linda’s quick response and follow-through, the students would not have been able to go, which would have been devastating,” he says.
In 2019, DoDEA created the Dr. Linda L. Curtis Educator of Promise Award to recognize one educator who demonstrated teacher leadership qualities each year. In 2020, she received a Teachers College Distinguished Service Award for her achievements.
In Rachel Geesa’s nomination letter for the award, she wrote: “Dr. Curtis is a lifelong learner, exemplary educator, powerful leader, and motivational mentor. We are grateful for her support and service to educators of military-connected students and Ball State.”