Eloise Whittlesey, a Judson Park resident of 20 years, has always known it was her destiny to one day become a teacher.
It all started the day Eloise was born and her father named her after his favorite childhood teacher. Ironically, her interest grew after she met her phenomenal first grade teacher, Miss Green. Eloise was quite fond of Miss Green and quickly realized she wanted to be just like her one day. Finally, when Eloise graduated high school, her yearbook photo held the caption, “Teacher of the Future.”
School felt like Eloise’s perfect world. As a senior in high school, she received an academic scholarship for Louisiana Normal School, where she took a full course load of education classes, participated in choir and served as a reporter for the college newspaper. While working at a summer job, she met her soon-to-be husband, Max, who was employed along with Eloise at Lyle’s Laundry and Dry Cleaning – it was a steamy romance! The two were married shortly before World War II began. Max enlisted in the Army and the two corresponded with many letters exchanged.
As young newlyweds, due to Max’s deployment during World War II, Eloise and Max moved around a lot—temporarily living in Louisiana, Missouri, Georgia, Washington and Germany. In 1942, the two started a family and Eloise became a substitute teacher in many of the different cities in which she, her husband and four kids lived. The last place Eloise worked before retiring was in Lynnwood, a suburb just outside of Seattle, where she taught sixth grade. However, since she and her family had always been active and adventurous, the retired couple wasn’t ready to settle down.
With the travel bug nipping at their heels, Eloise and Max first travelled north to Alaska, where they found themselves at the Lazy Missionary Compound for three months. A year later, they visited Sweden, where they served at the Bible Institute in Saffle. Upon explaining their latest travel adventures to their son and his wife, a suggestion was made for Eloise to consider teaching English in China, which intrigued both of them. Months later, Eloise and Max would apply and be accepted to a program where Americans could teach English to Chinese adult students. A year later, they were teaching at the Bamboo Bible Camp near Puli, Taiwan. Here, the pair spent two wonderful years teaching Chinese teachers how to speak, correctly and fluently in English.
Not only did Eloise and Max have the time of their lives teaching English abroad, but they also made life-long friends. They often went out to dinner with the local couples, grabbed coffee and did activities around town together. So, it was only natural that when Eloise and Max later moved back to the United States and eventually into Judson Park in 1997, they missed their friends from the other side of the world, which caused them to do something about it.
Their plan took off slowly. At first, they invited two former student Taiwanese couples to visit them in Des Moines, Washington. Next, they extended an offer to visit to another couple who later ended up moving to Seattle. Together, the former students, now retired teachers, and Eloise shared old memories and fond recollections during their reunions. They would discuss why they all chose to pursue teaching as a vocation, along with current hot-button school issues, such as violence in schools. The former teachers had a lot of fun reminiscing and sharing knowledge with each other throughout the two sessions last July, helping each other grow along the way.
As Eloise says, “The sessions of the International Retired Teachers’ Reunion ended, but the friendships are stronger than ever.”
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This article appears in the March 2017 issue of ABHOW Words.