Ms. Jean Nightingale’s story transcends that of an ordinary math teacher

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photo courtesy of the nightingale family

Math teacher Ms. Jean Nightingale has traveled around the globe, even meeting with infamous Iraqui president Sadam Hussein to rescue her husband who was captured in Kuwait by Iraqui soldiers.

Even after 14 years of teaching math at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Ms. Jean Nightingale never stops surprising students with the tales of her thrilling life. Her adventures have spanned from traveling the world, to dinner with Saddam Hussein.

I traveled to ruins such as Ephesus in Istanbul, been to the ‘Sound of Music’ mansion Salzburg, and camped in Oman where the phosphorus algae glows along the shore during a certain time of the year. I have visited the Taj Mahal and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.”

— Jean Nightingale

Before coming to BSM, the math teacher traveled around the world. Beyond traveling to 48 nations, Ms. Nightingale has lived in places such as Austria, and the Virgin Islands. “Mr. Jones and I have a competition of who has traveled to more countries. It remains a bit of a debate, but I have been to more countries though,” she said.

Because Ms. Nightingale has spent around 16 years overseas within her lifetime, it is easy to imagine that she has met many people in her life. One being her British husband, Nigel, whom she met in Oman playing softball. Because her children, ‘12 alum Casey and senior Leah, were born in Oman, the Nightingales had to apply for their US and British citizenships. “Their US birth certificates, translated from Arabic, say ‘Consular Record of Birth Abroad,’” Ms. Nightingale said.

Due to her travels across the world, Nightingale came to experience many distinct things. She remembers a variety of events from places she has explored. “I traveled to ruins such as Ephesus in Istanbul, been to the ‘Sound of Music’ mansion Salzburg, and camped in Oman where the phosphorus algae glows along the shore during a certain time of the year. I have visited the Taj Mahal and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Every place has its own unique places,” she said.

In addition to her unique travels, Mrs. Nightingale has encountered experiences unusual to the most seasoned travel buff. While staying in Kuwait, Ms. Nightingale personally met infamous Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, while trying to rescue her husband in Baghdad after he was captured in Kuwait by Iraqi soldiers. “My husband was captured by Iraqi soldiers and held hostage for four months, and American and British governments wouldn’t help. I investigated until I got a visa. Then I went and had dinner with Saddam Hussein, and he released him while saying, ‘Look how good of a man I am. I am letting her husband go,’” Ms. Nightingale said.

There were 400 men being held captive, some of which included her friends’ husbands, who were rescued soon after Ms. Nightingale helped their wives acquire visas.The American Red Cross hosted a Thanksgiving meal for the hostages and Americans visiting. Muhammad Ali, former American professional boxer, was among those trying to free hostages he knew. “The Red Cross and the Iraqi government hosted a Thanksgiving meal for all the American ‘guests.’ [Muhammad and I] were both invited and interviewed and had dinner together,” she said. After the Thanksgiving meal, Ms.Nightingale and members from the Red Cross, went to the American Embassy and contacted the hostages’ families to relay the message that their loved ones were alive.

(shannon o'connor)
(shannon o’connor)

Although many thought the Nightingales would be pro-war after what happened, they remained strongly anti-war during a time when that mindset was unpopular with the federal government. One of Oprah’s production managers was a BSM grad and told Oprah about their ordeal, they were invited on the show in fall 2002. “Oprah thought it was interesting that we were so strongly anti-war even though we had been through the hostage ordeal,” she said.

Although she has taken these 14 years to settle down at BSM, the journey for Ms. Nightingale is not over. She hopes to have many more experiences overseas. “My dream vacation is to go to Antarctica,” she said. Even though Nightingale has traveled all over the world, her journey is not over.