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Ansbach teacher returns from Afghanistan deployment

DoDDS-Europe, Public Affairs
WIESBADEN, Germany | August 26, 2014

Lori Hickey, center, meets with senior members of the Afghan military. On her immediate left is Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, Chief of Army Staff for the Afghan National Army. To her immediate right is Maj. Gen. Shir Mohammad Zazai, Commander of Afghanistan National Military Academy.

Lori Hickey, center, meets with senior members of the Afghan military. On her immediate left is Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, Chief of Army Staff for the Afghan National Army. To her immediate right is Maj. Gen. Shir Mohammad Zazai, Commander of Afghanistan National Military Academy. | Photo: Courtesy Photo

Quite often over the last decade, DoDDS-Europe teachers have seen parents and other members of their respective communities deploy to both Iraq and Afghanistan—with some never to return.

One teacher has gained first-hand experience by volunteering to deploy to Afghanistan and teach English to members of the Afghan government and military forces.

Lori Hickey, an English Language Arts teacher at Ansbach Middle High School, recently returned from her second one-year deployment in three years and she is excited to be back in the Ansbach community.

“It is a privilege and an honor to serve with our U.S. military personnel and our coalition forces,” she said. “We touched lives and made a difference. It was one mind – one mission all the way, student success was number one. There were no obstacles—just a few challenges along the way.”

Hickey, who volunteered through the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce program, was the site lead at the Immersion and English Training Center in Kabul and site lead at the Kandahar English Language Training Center in Kandahar.

Her duties included completing the construction, set up, and opening of the centers as well as training Afghan contract instructors in English language acquisition for the U.S. Air Force Defense Language Institute's American Language Course curriculum.  Their students were Afghan National Army and Afghan Air Force military personnel.

In their free time, Hickey and the other instructors taught coalition forces beginner, intermediate and advanced conversational English at the Kabul International Airport.

During her most recent deployment she was very proud of the high student achievement rate. She said several students were selected by the Kandahar Air Wing and the 738th Air Expeditionary Wing for further training in the U.S.

Being and Air Force brat and Army Strong!, she said her experiences have absolutely changed her.

“There were many times I was at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent and USO hearing military personnel asking their children to do their homework or be good for their teachers,” Hickey recalled. “They really tried to make a difference from Afghanistan, but it is so stressful and my heart ached for their extra burden of meeting their children’s teacher requests.”

Another big change for her is how she teaches.

“My teaching style has changed tremendously - more hands-on and interactive - and really hearing what my students have to say and putting them in the driver's seat - learning can be fun and engaging,” she explained. “ It's amazing to see the light bulbs go off in their heads. That's why I love Advancement Via Individual Determination.  I introduced AVID strategies in Kabul, Kandahar, and Shindand. Best practices work!”

She was recognized by both coalition and Afghan forces for her two deployments.  She received the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism, the International Security Forces Assistance Non-Article 5 NATO Medal, the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal and letters of appreciation from the Afghan Air Force and the Afghanistan National Defense University.

Hickey, who just completed her 10th year in the Department of Defense Education Activity, said there aren’t enough words to express how wonderful the support from her district superintendents and principal, who was always there for her.

Ansbach Middle High School principal David Carlisle fully supported her because he had the confidence that she had the skills to assist our forces in opening the language school.

“Lori’s background in AVID, her enthusiasm for learning and her ability to meet the needs of individual learners meant she would have a good chance of success in creating the communication bridge,” he explained. “Lori also learned what life is like for those deployed, and it is very important for all of our DoDDS teachers to understand the conditions of parents and sponsors serving downrange.

“By bringing her efforts and experiences to the forefront, she exemplifies what is great about being an educator for the Department of Defense Schools as we continue to provide the best educational opportunity possible for dependents of our service members,” he added. “Ansbach often has our community members downrange, and by understanding what they are going through, we better understand that we have to meet the educational and social needs of our students here in the school house.”     

With all of her experiences behind her, she said she would absolutely recommend this experience to her fellow teaching professionals.

Her biggest takeaway from her two tours was teamwork.

“Working with our military, no matter our differences on anything - mission came first - we were one mission, one mind,” she finished. “We worked together as a team and what an honor it was to work "shoulder-to-shoulder" with them.  And, it made me glow when they said such wonderful things about DoDEA and how pleased they are with our curriculum and what their kids are doing.”

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