Books rule for OES military kidPublished 10:25pm Thursday, March 28, 2013
Oakland Elementary student Isaabel Zahn has changed schools almost once for each grade she has experienced — not unusual for a kid from a military family.
But what is out of the ordinary is how well the fifth grader has learned to cope with dad Isaac Zahn’s frequent excursions into foreign war zones, and the consequences of those deployments.
Isaac Zahn, a Marine who recently filed his retirement papers, was deployed to Iraq three times and Afghanistan once.
Isaabel, who started her education in Montana before the family moved to California, then North Carolina, and then to Suffolk last March, recently was named a top-20 finalist in Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year Award, though she didn’t win the top prize.
Isaac Zahn “got hit” in Iraq on Christmas in 2006. “It shattered my heel,” he said.
He persevered with the injured limb before it was amputated last year.
“She was a trooper,” he said of Isaabel’s attitude while he was undergoing various surgeries. “When I first came back, she just kind of got both ends of it. A brand new sister, and dad injured. She had a lot to deal with.”
That “new sister,” Anne Zahn, is in kindergarten this year at Oakland Elementary.
The girls’ mom, Amanda Zahn, who nominated her for the award, said Isaabel “threw herself into her school work” following her dad’s injury. “She helps out her little sister and teaches her how to read,” she added.
Isaabel gets exclusively As and Bs — maybe she once got a C — and reports that the hardest thing about growing up a military kid is all the moving around.
But it’s made her into a strong reader.
“As soon as I start making friends, we move. Then I have to start making friends again,” she said.
“I think that’s part of the reason she does so well in school,” Isaac Zahn. “She moves around so many times, I think she gives up on meeting friends and gets into books.”
“I like mostly every single book,” Isaabel said. “Like, I can’t just choose one” that she likes most.
But she has read all four in the Twilight series, which may be a contender.
Reading, she said, “expands my imagination, and I get more and more words stuck in my head. It helps me write a lot better, and I like to write.”
So that Isaabel can start fresh at middle school instead of changing schools again — though Anne will have to for the first time — the Zahns are waiting until the summer to move back to Montana.
Isaac and Amanda Zahn both have large extended families back in the western state, and they’ll move with Isaabel and Anne to the city of Missoula.