May 26th, 2023
Judy Lam has seen and done a lot during her 60 years in education, including the past 49 in DoDEA schools, but this summer the School Counselor at SHAPE American Elementary School in Belgium will try something new: retirement.
Lam began her career in 1963 as a kindergarten teacher of migrant children in Texas. She still remembers the November day when the principal delivered the news of President Kennedy’s assassination and how her students then sang a mournful song together in Spanish.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, she taught K-2 for three years in Dallas schools. While teaching she took night and summer classes to earn her master’s degree in counseling. In 1974, she met DoDEA recruiters visiting her school. Given the chance to live in Europe and connect with her Flemish relatives, she took a one-year leave of absence from her school to teach at SHAPE Belgium for the 1974-75 school year.
Lam’s one-year absence plan led to an impressive 49 years as a DoDEA teacher-turned-counselor. She first taught first grade, then second and third. She felt that as classroom teacher “it was great to be the adult who cared for and influenced a group of 25 little human beings everyday.”
After almost twenty years as a DoDEA teacher, in 1993 she became a DODEA school counselor. One of her first initiatives in this role was to offer new families a briefing and tour of the school, which she enjoyed leading for the rest of her career. Another of Judy’s projects was developing a program she labeled Responsibility, Respect, and Resolution of Problems, in which she taught students social emotional skills that can be used for life. Judy reflected on her work as a counselor:
“As a counselor, I was able to care for and influence hundreds of human beings every day. The lessons on responsibility, respect, and problem resolution give me hope I contributed to our students being valuable members of our society. I also enjoyed being on morning and afternoon bus duty and lunchtime/playground supervision, which provided me with thousands of hours of very rewarding contact with a wide range of students. Also, many parents are often on site at student arrival and dismissal, and I tell people that it’s like a wonderful cocktail party, without the cocktails.”
Lam also raised her family in Belgium. In the 1980s, she became a mother to two daughters, Bronwen and Morgan, who both attended and graduated from DoDEA schools. After her husband Milton passed away in 2007, she remained in Belgium, dedicated to work every day and support students and parents.
An FEA member, Lam felt secure in knowing that FEA/NEA union leadership consistently “supported equitable quality public education for students and just and equitable support for teachers.” She has also been an active FEA member. Lam is currently a Faculty Representative at her school, but also served as an FRS for a total of ten years, and was the local SHAPE Education Association President for six years.
Lam will soon transition to a well-earned retirement of “love and leisure.” She plans to travel between Texas and Europe with her partner Volker and spend time with friends and extended family. Scrabble and long walks will be daily activities.
FEA congratulates Judy Lam on a career well spent.
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