Former students return to teach at MacDill's schoolhouse

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Back-to-school goes way back for a group of teachers who were once students at the same school.

Tara Quinn and Mary Sullivan attended Tinker K-8 School at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Now they're back, teaching the next generation.

"I did imagine it would be the ideal school for me because when I moved to the United States, this is the first school I went to," says Sullivan.

Her dad was in the Air Force when their family moved from Okinawa, Japan to Tampa, Florida. She enrolled at Tinker as a student and in 2007, returned to teach kids like her.

"Some of them have been to four or five different schools in their lifetimes and they're only nine or 10," she says. "So they understand when a new student comes in the middle of the new school year, they gravitate to that person to make sure they feel welcome." 

Not all military bases have a school like Tinker. It was built in 1952 and named for the first commander of the base, Major General Clarence Tinker, the first Native American to achieve the rank.

Tinker is part of Hillsborough County Public Schools, with grades kindergarten through eighth. It has a normal curriculum - with some extra stars and stripes among students and teachers.

"My dad and grandfather were both in the military," says first-grade teacher Tara Quinn. "My dad was in the Army and my granddad was in the Air Force." 

Quinn gained a special understanding when she attended Tinker as a child.

"Our students are very resilient," she says. "They love meeting new people and they come from all
different cultures." 

It's like a regular neighborhood school, just on a military base.

"I feel safe here," says Sullivan. "I know the base. I'm comfortable here, and I understand their parents and what they go through."

There are sacrifices and rewards associated with military service. Some say Tinker is a special reward at MacDill, so-much-so they've come back to school for good.