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by Abigail Van Buren

Teacher Set Good Example for Continuing Education

DEAR ABBY: My "Aunt Woo Woo" was a high school teacher all her life. She retired at 62, and after her husband died, she returned to college to get a degree in special education.

She lived in a dorm, showed the young co-eds a thing or two (she was quite a rounder!), and then taught until she was 87.

Tell those who have a dream to go for it -- at any age. -- ROSE PITFORD, KEOKUK, IOWA

DEAR ROSE: I've been doing it for years, and readers have taken it to heart. I recently read about a gentleman in his 90s who had just graduated from college -- and he's not alone. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: As a child, I wanted to be a teacher to follow in my grandmother's footsteps. I made my sister play school. I made the neighbor kids play school. Nobody was safe from my teaching.

I never went beyond high school, married young and had a family right away. On my 38th birthday, our home and all possessions were burned in a fire. My life changed forever. I became a firefighter. At the age of 42, I began taking college classes in fire science. With 60 hours of college credit, I became a substitute teacher on my days off from the fire department.

It took years to earn my associate's degree in fire science technology. I entered the University of South Florida -- still a professional firefighter. (I was the oldest female professional firefighter in the United States throughout my career.)

I retired from the fire service in 1998 and, at age 55, entered college full time. It took 2 1/2 years to complete my degree.

Abby, not for a moment do I regret all the life experiences I brought to the teaching profession. I know I can continue to contribute to the education of children for another 20 years if I choose.

Would I do this over again? In a heartbeat! -- E. DIANE LAPOINTE, BRADENTON, FLA.

DEAR DIANE: Your work ethic and ability to contribute are awesome. My hat's off to you. I'm sure your example will inspire others.

DEAR ABBY: After being frustrated about not being able to track down and properly thank some of the teachers who helped me get where I am today, I had an idea. Wouldn't it be wonderful if each teacher had an e-mail address assigned to him or her -- even after they retired? If teachers heard from their former students, they would better understand the impact they made on our lives. Perhaps some great former teachers would even return to their profession. -- GRATEFUL DOCTOR IN DALLAS

DEAR GRATEFUL DOCTOR: Your idea has merit. However, until that day arrives, a phone call, or better still a letter, can achieve the same goal.

DEAR ABBY: Do you have space for one more "birds and bees" story? When my son and his playmate were very little, some big boys horrified them by bluntly telling them the "facts of life." Left alone, the two little boys talked the matter over anxiously. They finally decided, with a great surge of relief, that the big boys had been lying through their teeth.

"Of course they were lying!" my son's little pal assured him triumphantly, "and I can prove it. You see, maybe my mother MIGHT, but I know for sure my daddy would NEVER!" -- M.S. from DALLAS

DEAR M.S.: Which proves you should never say "Never"!

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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