FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – After more than 40 years in education and three years as Kentucky Community Superintendent, Youlanda Cumings Washington is retiring and reflecting back on her passion for military children and the Department of Defense Education Activity’s excellence in education.During her tenure as Kentucky Community Superintendent, Washington was responsible for Fort Campbell and Fort Knox schools. Washington, a graduate of Fort Knox High School, has devoted her entire education career to military children, knowing firsthand what their needs and experiences are like.“I am originally from Dothan, Alabama, and I came out of a household where everyone on my mother’s side was in education, and the men were all in the military,” Washington said.“As a child, my father chose to leave us in Alabama while he was stationed at different duty stations and when he was deployed for the Army. He did two tours in Vietnam and Korea.”Washington said because her father was often away during his Army service, the times when he was home were filled with lessons about the military and the way of life for other Army Families. Oftentimes, Washington and her siblings would share their father’s lessons about the nation’s military with classmates and friends.“When he came home from Vietnam, he announced he had made the decision to move all of us with him to Fort Knox,” Washington said. “I was a sophomore in high school, but thankfully, as we moved into this community. Everything my dad had been teaching us about the military had sunk in. He had always taught that as soon as we get into a new community, we need to immediately support the community and get involved in the activities at school and around us.”After graduation, Washington attended Western Kentucky University where she earned Bachelor of Science degree in Education.As she was moving through college, her father told her he believed she would always work for the military.“My dad told us that he raised us to serve the military community,” Washington said. “He said: ‘I’m sending you off to college to get your education, but when you graduate you will return to the military’ and I laughed a little bit. I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t being given a choice or should thank him for telling me what he thought I should do with my life. I didn’t say anything, and I waited until I was graduating in 1976 to thank him. I had embraced his vision and made it my own.”Washington began her career as a reading specialist before becoming a sixth-grade teacher at Macdonald Middle School on Fort Knox. Washington taught at the middle school for 16 years and also served as the speech and debate coach.“I taught the sixth grade from 1976 to 1992,” Washington said. “In 1992, I became principal of Pierce Elementary School [Fort Knox]. I had a vision. I made a plan and fortunately my staff bought into it. We worked very hard to make education successful for children.”Washington said she has always been an advocate for her students, or any student in the schools where she worked, and has also tried to instill in them the confidence to advocate and speak up for themselves and for others.“DODEA has the most committed and dedicated leaders who are visionary and want nothing but the best for the students,” Washington said. “I stayed with DODEA because it impacts the world with its mission. We have an opportunity to change the world because we have so many students across the world who are shaped to be visionary leaders.”Washington also has always pursued excellence in her own education, whether it is through additional college study or through research and writing. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in administration and a Rank I teaching certificate from Western Kentucky University. In 2002, she earned her Doctor of Philosophy from University of Louisville.In 2004, she was awarded the Morphet Dissertation Award for the Outstanding Dissertation of the Year. Washington’s dissertation, “Women in School Leadership: A Study of Female Superintendents in Kentucky,” focused on the role of a superintendent and women in leadership.“I had a desire to do more,” she said. “The one challenge I have overcome is the fast-paced work that is required. There are so many requests and demands of time, but thankfully I had great role models and a team that helped me adapt. I think this was a challenge I faced and overcame. I was able to face the challenge of managing my home life and the work I was needed to do.”Washington has authored several articles related to quality management and quality leadership and produced educational videos focused on cooperative learning. Her articles have been presented at American Educational Research Association conferences and published in the Journal of Women in Educational Leadership. In addition to her articles, Washington has authored several books.“I’m looking forward to continue writing books,” she said. “I want to travel as a missionary and then writing about my experiences on those journeys.”In 2003, Washington was selected by the Kentucky Department of Education to serve in the Kentucky Minority Superintendent Internship program as an assistant superintendent in Oldham County Schools in Buckner, Kentucky for a year. Washington returned to Fort Knox in 2004 as the principal of Macdonald Intermediate School. In 2013, she was transferred to Scott Middle School, where she also served as principal.“I can remember back in 1978, I was part of a concept called cooperative learning, and I was asked to research the concept, apply it to my classroom and then report to the principal and superintendent at the time,” she said. “As I did it, I realized I wanted to get people to collaborate and work together for the good of children as a principal, and later superintendent. I realized there was something more I could do. I had been at every level in the education system and wanted to work together on the highest level to get even greater results from students, educators and parents.”In 2017, Washington became Kentucky Community Superintendent, and immediately made sure she was a strong and equal advocate for Fort Knox and Fort Campbell students.“I already have ties with Fort Knox, but I wanted my ties with Fort Campbell to be just as strong,” Washington said. “I went into the community and immediately went toward building relationships with the students first. I wanted to be as much a part of Fort Campbell so the parents would know I was just as committed to their child and their education as I was at Fort Knox. Fort Knox never outweighed Fort Campbell, and vice versa. I care about children, and whatever decisions were made, it was always in their best interest.”Now that she is retiring, Washington has begun to reflect on the gift of working with military children, their Families and the Army.“I’m going to miss the children the most,” she said. “It’s always been my philosophy, if I’m having a bad day, I would leave my office and go to a classroom and sit and watch the children and interact with them. Any challenge I was facing, it would leave for a brief amount of time. I’m going to miss the joy and excitement on their faces, and I’m going to miss the parents and installation command who were so involved and committed to helping me solve any challenge I had.”Washington and her husband, Joe I. Washington Jr., have two sons – Joe who is married to Tisha, and Kevin, and they have three grandchildren. Her Family has always supported her career, especially her husband who can often be seen by her side attending school events at Fort Campbell and Fort Knox.“My husband of almost 40 years has been a mainstay of my life,” Washington said. “He was in education and won educator of the year awards, so he really modelled what being a committed teacher looked like for me. He is probably the greatest motivator I know – he could motivate anybody. Anything I wanted to do he would make sure it would happen. When I told him I was applying for the superintendent position, he supported me and sacrificed what he loved to do so I could do what I needed to do.”Washington’s official retirement date is May 31. During her more than 40 years in education, she has always instructed her students to do all things in life with love and encourages the students of Fort Campbell and Fort Knox to continue doing so.“It has been my pleasure to serve you on the journey of my life,” Washington said. “Continue to be amazing and to give to people, because you have so much to offer the world. Settle for nothing less than this best and finish strong and do all things in love. It can be hard to love. There are different types of love, but the love I want you all to focus on is Agape love – unconditional love. No matter what we do, forgive people and love them unconditionally. We all go through different things in life. The greatest thing you can do is to forgive someone and love them regardless of what they do.”