Tinker AFB Community
MacDill roots run deep for Tinker teachers
Story by SrA Ashley Perdue on 08/20/2019
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. “On my first day of work, I was so excited. I could not believe it! I thought to myself, I get to work at Tinker. I went to school here,'” exclaimed Tara Quinn, first grade General Clarence Tinker K-8 School teacher, who not only attended Tinker from Kindergarten through fifth grade, but was also born on MacDill Air Force Base.
Tinker K-8 is a very unique school. Even though only military children can attend, Tinker is one of the only schools located on a base stateside directed by the local county public school district instead of through the Department of Defense. Hillsborough County Public School District is the 8th largest school district in the Nation and are continuously recognized for their focus on the well-being of military-dependent students.
According to Quinn, her teachers from Tinker inspired her to become a teacher and now 11 years after graduating college, she is working in the same place she attended as a child.
“When I was at Tinker, I had the most amazing teachers,” shared Quinn. “When I first started working here, my second grade teacher was still here teaching and retired shortly after. I was like, Oh my goodness, [this experience has now come] full circle!”
Quinn shared, it was not just the academics that peaked her interest into becoming an elementary school teacher, but also the bond she had with her teachers. She wanted to give back what she received as a child.
“They took care of me and treated me as one of their own. Back when we were allowed to, I would spend the weekends at my teachers’ homes,” reminisced Quinn. “It was the relationship they had with me that helped shape me to become who I am today.”
While in elementary school, Quinn’s parents divorced. Around the same time, she also suffered the loss of a grandparent and found that she always had her teachers there supporting her through it all.
As for Mrs. Quinn, she is not the only one to return back to her education roots.
Mary Sullivan, a fourth grade teacher also with Tinker, attended as a student for two years until her family moved off base transferring her to the local elementary school.
“I went to school at Tinker in the early 80s and I’m very proud of that,” said Sullivan. “My father was stationed here and Tinker was my second or third school I attended.”
Even though Sullivan travelled all over the world as a child, once landing in Tampa, her and her family decided to plant their roots.
“I am from South Tampafrom Tinker to Lanier Elementary School, to Monroe Middle School to Robinson High School. I even went to college at the University of South Florida, so I would say I’m a Tampa girl. Definitely a Tampa girl,” laughed Sullivan.
Both Quinn and Sullivan remained in Tampa and despite their minor age difference, they took a similar path in life and ended up in their dream job.
“Being a teacher in the school I attended is great,” added Sullivan. “I’ve moved around overseas, came to the states, went back overseas, then returned back to the states so I feel like I can relate to a lot of the children. I thought I’d make the biggest difference here on base.”
When asked about their favorite memories on base as children, both teachers shared their enjoyment for their adventurous walks to school.
“We used to walk to school every morning and one year we had a hurricane come through. All of the parking lots were flooded and we had fish going through the parking lots! Which was crazy,” chuckled Sullivan.
“I remember walking to school and that was something I was always excited about,” smiled Quinn. “I was only in Kindergarten but I remember thinking, Man, this is really exciting!'”
Each teacher shared their passion for teaching at Tinker but the biggest takeaway is their passion to make a difference in military children’s lives.
“Mrs. Sullivan and I went to Tinker as students and we consider ourselves very lucky,” said Quinn.
“This is my 13th year at Tinker and I prefer to retire here,” Sullivan added with a huge smile. “These kids may struggle meeting friends, or are sad because they have friends that move away, or because mom or dad are deployed, but they are resilient. We as teachers are with them seven hours a day, five days a week and 180 days a year. At that point, they become family and making them feel valued, welcomed and feeling like they belong somewhere makes a huge difference in their lives.”
Team MacDill is extremely lucky to have such dedicated and passionate teachers to care for our children and ensure they have the most positive experience.