Susan Coti has long been an educator. On Sept. 11, 2001, she was my daughter’s fourth-grade teacher at John Eaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C. Today, she helps run a nonprofit for Burmese teachers of English in Myanmar.
The pandemic halted in-person training, and then the military coup in February suspended the program altogether. This past week, Gift of Education started a new program teaching children who are unable to attend government schools. And students are eager: Two walk 35 minutes each way from a teak logging camp in the mountains to a village with internet access.
Ms. Coti’s professional evolution didn’t happen in a vacuum. In 2012, her Marine son, Niall Coti-Sears, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. Ever since, this Gold Star mom has devoted herself to honoring the life of her only child in ways he would find meaningful.
Niall was a musician interested in Buddhism, and Ms. Coti channeled her energy toward funding an instrumental program at a music school in Yangon, Myanmar. Then she pivoted toward the training of English teachers, and joined forces with Sunda Khin, founder of Gift of Education.
“We believe it will elevate the economic and social growth of Myanmar,” Ms. Coti says. “Everybody wants to learn English.”
And how has she processed the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan?
“Even though the Taliban have taken over again (inevitable), I am glad we are out of there,” she writes in an email. “Niall felt he was doing something good there, and that means a lot to me. I won’t go down the ‘died for nothing’ road.”
“I just have to do something to keep moving forward and remembering Niall in a positive way,” she says. “It nourishes me and hopefully the world.”