- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001

After 18 years of service in the Navy, Chief Warrant Officer Patricia Gray started thinking about a second career. She knew she wanted to retire from the service at the 20-year mark.

"I asked myself, 'What are you good at? What things bring you satisfaction?' " she says. "The thing that did make me happy was dealing with people, and teaching was something I thought I was naturally good at."

Eighteen months after her retirement as an information systems officer, Mrs. Gray, 46, is a special-education teacher to second-, third-and fourth graders at Navy Elementary School in Fairfax, Va.

This is her first year teaching after earning her master's degree in general education from Old Dominion College.

"I love kids," she says. "I'm reaching a challenged population. I think that the impact I make feels more significant."

Mrs. Gray has been successful in her new career, says Patricia Christiansen, the principal of Navy Elementary School.

"She's been exceptional as a first-year teacher," Mrs. Christiansen says. "The rapport that she has with the young children is great."

Mrs. Gray says she could have gone into a computer-related job and made a lot more money than she does teaching, but she wanted a second career that would make her happy.

"I have my military-retirement pay, and I can afford to walk into a $35,000-a-year salary and not starve," she says.

While in the Navy, she was stationed in California, Florida, Hawaii, Virginia, Portugal and England. But as the mother of a 16- and 18-year-old, she is more content now than when she was in the military.

"I go home to my family every night," she says. "I would be gone for six months at a time when I was in the military. I dragged my family from continent to continent."

Now she feels more fulfilled, teaching language arts and math to learning-disabled children.

"It is equally exciting for me to see the children succeed than it was for me to pull into the port of a gorgeous country," she says. "I am extremely happy to be out of the military. I enjoyed myself; I saw the places I wanted to see, and they paid for my education. I just want to have some calm now."

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